We are being punished for a crime we did not commit: Dr Yunus

Staff Reporter, Dhaka

Following a labour court verdict that sentenced Dr Muhammad Yunus along with three others to six months in jail, the Nobel laureate said they are being punished for a crime they did not commit.

“We are being punished for a crime we did not commit. It was my fate, the nation’s fate. We have accepted this verdict, but will appeal against this verdict and continue fighting against this sentence,” said Dr Yunus following the verdict of the Dhaka’s third labour court on Monday (1 January).

The charges against Dr Yunus include failing to provide a 5% dividend to the workers, not regularising 101 staff, and not compensating workers for public holidays.

Grameen Telecom Chairman and Nobel Laureate Dr Yunus and three others have been sentenced to six months imprisonment and fined Tk25,000 each in a case filed on charges of violating labour law.

The other three accused in the case are Grameen Telecom’s director and former managing director Md Ashraful Hasan, members of Board of Directors Nur Jahan Begum and Md Shahjahan.

Dhaka’s third labor court’s Judge Begum Sheikh Merina Sultana pronounced the verdict on Monday (1 January) afternoon.

Dr Yunus reached the third labour court in Dhaka around 2:45pm and was present while the verdict was read out.

Also, the court granted Dr Yunus a month’s bail, on condition of filing an appeal against the verdict of the court.

While reading out the verdict the court said, “The defendant complemented the Nobel-winning international figure for fighting poverty. But Nobel laureate Yunus is not being tried in this court, he is being tried as the chairman of Grameen Telecom. And allegations of violation of labour law have been proven against him.”

On 24 December, Judge Sheikh Merina Sultana of Dhaka’s 3rd Labour Court fixed 1 January for pronouncing the verdict.

Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) Inspector Arifuzzaman filed the case on 9 September 2021, and the court had summoned the four to appear before it by 12 October 2021.

According to the case documents, a team of the DIFE went on an inspection to the Grameen Telecom and found the violations of labour laws like not regularising 101 staff and not establishing a welfare fund for the labourers, among others.

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court on 20 August dismissed the leave to appeal petition filed by Grameen Telecom Chairman and Nobel Laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus, challenging a High Court verdict that rejected his petition against labour court’s indictment order.

On 23 July this year, a High Court bench issued a rule asking the state to explain why the labour court order that framed charges against Dr Yunus and three others should not be scrapped, followed by an application submitted on 19 May by the noble laureate. The High Court on 8 August scrapped the rule.

Earlier, DIFE lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan said they have sought the highest punishment of Dr Muhammad Yunus and the three others in the case.