South Asia

Grameen founder Yunus loses final dismissal appeal

Muhammad Yunus leaves high court
Image caption Muhammad Yunus says his removal from Grameen Bank was politically motivated

Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus has lost his final appeal in Bangladesh's Supreme Court against his sacking from the Grameen micro-finance bank he founded.

The court upheld the decision by the central bank to remove him from office.

The bank said Prof Yunus had been improperly appointed while past retirement age.

But Prof Yunus said the attempt to remove him from the bank had been politically motivated.

The Grameen Bank has pioneered micro-lending to the poor by giving small loans to millions of borrowers.

This was in effect Prof Yunus's last legal option to keep his job as managing director of the Grameen Bank. In March Bangladesh's High Court ruled that his dismissal was legal.

The appeal in the supreme court challenged that judgement.

"The appeal is dismissed," chief justice ABM Khairul Haque said in his one-sentence ruling at a crowded courtroom of the country's highest court.

Attorney General Mahbub-e-Alam said the court's judgement meant Prof Yunus could no longer retain his post as the bank's managing director.

Prof Yunus was not in court to hear the ruling and has not yet responded in person.

But his lawyers hope to have the court order rescinded on the basis that they did not have time to submit all their arguments.

One of his lawyers, Rokhanuddin Mahmud, told the BBC that while the move was unusual, it was not unprecedented.

Mr Mahmud said that Prof Yunus's legal team had the right to ask for the court judgement to be "recalled" because it had not yet been signed formally into law.

In addition, a group of pro-Yunus directors at Grameen Bank are also hoping to get the ruling overturned on Wednesday.

However the BBC's Anbarasan Ethirajan, in Dhaka, says that the chances of getting the ruling overturned are thought to be slim.

Prof Yunus's removal from the Grameen Bank sparked criticism from some of Bangladesh's foreign donors, including the US.

His supporters say he fell out with Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina after trying to launch his own political party in 2007.

He says his dismissal is part of a government plan to take control of the bank. The government denies this.

In December last year, Ms Hasina accused Prof Yunus of treating Grameen Bank as his "personal property" and said it was "sucking blood from the poor".

The Bangladeshi government set up a review committee the following month to look into the bank's affairs amid reports it could be taken over.

The country's central bank removed Prof Yunus, 71, from his post last month, saying his continuing work at Grameen Bank violated laws that public servants must retire at the age of 60.

Professor Yunus's supporters say as well as suffering the indignity of being sacked, he has been vilified in the Bangladeshi press and summoned to court three times in cases nominally connected to Grameen.

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