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Appeal deferred

March 9, 2011

The supreme court of Bangladesh has delayed its hearing on whether Mohammed Yunus can retain his position as the head of the country's microfinance institution, the Grameen Bank.

Yunus says his Grameen Bank is an institution of 'the people'
Yunus says his Grameen Bank is an institution of 'the people'Image: AP

According to Yunus' lawyer, the court has delayed the process by two weeks since the necessary papers were not available. After losing an appeal in the High Court, Muhammad Yunus had taken his appeal to the Supreme Court.

Muhammad Yunus has long been celebrated for his pioneering of microfinance. In 2006, he and his Grameen Bank were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize but in recent months, the once much-praised practice has become the target of widespread criticism, with many saying that it exploits the poor and forces them into more debt.

At the same time, Yunus has also attracted the ire of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. His supporters say that she did not appreciate his toying with the idea of launching a political party while Bangladesh was under the rule of an interim government in 2007. They say his dismissal from his post as managing director of Grameen Bank has political, not legal, reasons.

The central bank accuses Yunus of failing to seek its approval when he was reappointed in 1999.

Legality of dismissal is 'crystal clear'

On Tuesday, High Court judge Muhammad Mamtag Ahmed rejected Yunus’ first appeal and said that it was "crystal clear" that the order to dismiss him was legal.

"The managing director is an officer of the bank, and the mandatory retirement age for bank officers is 60, so he has also exceeded his retirement age long ago," he said.

Microcredit has financed businesses in many sectors, from textiles to telecoms
Microcredit has financed businesses in many sectors, from textiles to telecomsImage: picture-alliance / Godong

"We are not surprised, we were expecting this," said Sara Hossain, one of Yunus’ lawyers. “This is a sad day for Bangladesh."

Yunus has said Sheikh Hasina's government is trying to take over his bank, which is owned by "poor women." He has also stated that he will step down but at a time of his choosing in order to ensure a smooth transition for what he calls an institution "of the people."

Despite mounting criticism, he still has a great deal of support among "the people" and on the weekend, thousands marched in the Bangladeshi capital to protest against his dismissal.

The international community has also generally rallied behind the Nobel laureate.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the banker in a gesture of solidarity.

Editor: Thomas Bärthlein