Bangladesh grants bail to Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus

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DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A court in Bangladesh's capital granted bail Sunday to micro-credit pioneer and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus over the firing of three employees by Grameen Communications, where he is chairman.

Acting Chairman of the 3rd Labor Court in Dhaka, Zakia Parveen, granted the bail when Yunus appeared before the court. The country's High Court had set a Nov. 7 deadline last month for him to appear in person. It had asked authorities not to arrest or harass Yunus before the deadline.

Court official Wasiur Rahman said the court granted bail of 10,000 takas ($120) in bonds in each of the three cases.

Defense lawyer Mustafizur Rahman Khan said Yunus would not be required to appear in person before the court until any indictments are handed down.

The labor court had earlier issued an arrest warrant for Yunus after he failed to appear because he was abroad.

The three employees filed the cases in July, saying they were terminated illegally after seeking to form a trade union.

Yunus founded Grameen Bank, which provides small loans to impoverished people, and shared the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize with the organization.

Yunus, who now travels extensively across the world to promote social business, has faced several investigations by the government of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has frosty relations with him. He was removed from the bank after surpassing retirement age.

A government-appointed investigation had earlier said that Grameen Bank violated its charter as a micro-lender by creating affiliates that did not benefit the bank's shareholders, and recommended the government merge those businesses with the bank. Yunus maintains that those businesses are independent and should remain so.

Hasina was reportedly angered by Yunus' 2007 attempt to form his own political party backed by the influential army when the country was under a state of emergency and Hasina was behind bars. Hasina came to power in a 2008 election and ordered an investigation of Yunus, who has close relations with the West.

Currently, Grameen Bank has about 9 million members, 97% of whom are women. With 2,568 branches, the bank provides services in 81,677 villages, covering more than 93% of the total villages in Bangladesh.

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