Authorities in Bangladesh must stop weaponizing labour law and immediately end their harassment and intimidation of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, Amnesty International said on Monday.
Muhammad Yunus, also the chairman of the board at Grameen Telecom, faces accusations of employment-related violations, reads a press release.
A criminal case has been filed against him in Bangladesh under the Labour Act 2006, it said.
Three other board members, Ashraful Hasan, Nur Jahan Begum, and Mohammad Shahjahan, are charged with the same offences, it added.
In 2006, Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to “create economic and social development from below”.
In 1994, Yunus founded Grameen Telecom (GTC) to bring information technology to rural populations in Bangladesh.
The ongoing trial against Muhammad Yunus and his colleagues stems from a case filed by a labour inspector.
This case alleges three main violations of the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 by Grameen Telecom.
The allegations include not classifying employees as permanent workers after their probationary periods, as stipulated in Section 4(7) of the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006.
It is also alleged that employees were not granted annual leave with pay or compensation for earned leave, in contravention of Section 117(7) of the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006.
Lastly, Grameen Telecom allegedly failed to establish both a workers' participatory fund and a workers' welfare fund by not depositing 5% of its net profit, violating Section 234 of the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006.
Interestingly, Grameen Telecom is not named as a party in the case. Only the three board members most closely associated with Yunus are mentioned.
This suggests the case may be politically motivated, aiming to harass and intimidate Yunus, the press release said.
It is worth noting that none of the accused board members were actively involved in the company's daily operations, it added.
On September 5, 2023, the United Nations high commissioner for Human Rights released a statement.
It expressed concerns about the harassment and intimidation of Muhammad Yunus and other dissenting voices in Bangladesh.