Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus convicted in Bangladesh labour law case

DHAKA (Reuters) -A court in Bangladesh on Monday sentenced Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus to six months’ imprisonment for labour law violations, prosecutors said, a case his supporters have claimed is politically motivated.

Yunus, 83, and his Grameen Bank won the 2006 peace prize for their work to lift millions out of poverty by granting tiny loans of under $100 to the rural poor of Bangladesh, pioneering a global movement now known as microcredit.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, however, accused him of ‘sucking blood from the poor’. His supporters say the government is attempting to discredit him because he once considered setting up a political party to rival Hasina’s Awami League.

Yunus and three employees from Grameen Telecom, a company he founded, were convicted on Monday of violating labour laws. Responding to petitions submitted by the convicts, the court however granted them bail pending a possible appeal.

“The court granted their bail, giving them one month to file an appeal against the verdict of the court,” prosecutor Khurshid Alam Khan said.

Khaja Tanvir, one of Yunus’ lawyers, said the case is politically motivated and targeted at harassing Yunus.

Human rights groups have accused the government of Hasina, who is seeking her fourth consecutive term of five in an election on Jan. 7, of targeting political dissent.

(Reporting by Ruma Paul in Dhaka and Nilutpal Timsina in Bengaluru: Editing by Neil Fullick and Jan Harvey)