Bangladesh’s labor laws found Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus guilty of violating them.

The prime minister, who accused him of ‘sucking blood’ from poor people, has earned the enmity of the prizewinner.

In a case criticized as politically motivated by his supporters, Nobel peace laureate Muhammad Yunus has been convicted of violating Bangladesh’s labor laws.

The 83-year-old, known for lifting millions out of poverty with his pioneering microfinance bank, has been accused by Sheikh Hasina, the longtime prime minister, of “sucking blood” from poor people.

Hasina, who was once seen as a political rival, has made several scathing verbal attacks against the internationally respected 2006 Nobel peace prize winner.

Yunus and three colleagues from Grameen Telecom, one of the firms he founded, were accused of violating labor laws for allegedly failing to create a workers’ welfare fund in the company.

Lead prosecutor Khurshid Alam Khan stated that the labor court in the capital, Dhaka, convicted and sentenced them to “six months’ simple imprisonment”, but all four were immediately granted bail pending appeals.

All four have denied the charges.

“I have been punished for a crime that I haven’t committed,” Yunus told reporters after the hearing. “If you want to call it justice, you can.”

“This verdict is unprecedented,” said Abdullah Al Mamun, a lawyer for Yunus. “We did not get justice.”

Yunus is currently facing over 100 other charges of labor law violations and alleged graft, but he has stated that he has not profited from any of the social business firms he established in Bangladesh.

“They were not for my personal benefit,” Yunus clarified.

Khaja Tanvir, another of his lawyers, described the case as “meritless, false, and ill-motivated”, with the aim being to “harass and humiliate him in front of the world.”

Irene Khan, a former Amnesty chief and current UN special rapporteur, described the conviction as “a travesty of justice”.

“A social activist and Nobel laureate who brought honor and pride to the country is being persecuted on frivolous grounds,” Khan stated.

In August, a joint letter denouncing “continuous judicial harassment” of Yunus was published by 160 global figures, including former US president Barack Obama and ex-UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon. The signatories, including over 100 fellow Nobel laureates, expressed concern for Yunus’s safety and freedom.

Critics claim that Bangladeshi courts rubber-stamp decisions made by Hasina’s government, which is expected to win another term in power at the upcoming elections boycotted by the opposition. The administration has been cracking down on political dissent, and Yunus’s popularity among the Bangladeshi public has marked him as a potential rival for years.

When Yunus went to trial in September, Amnesty International accused the government of “weaponizing labor laws” and called for an immediate end to his “harassment”. The organization stated that the criminal proceedings against Yunus were a form of political retaliation for his work and dissent.

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