(UnitedVoice.com) – The Bangladeshi government has moved closer toward authoritarianism in recent years. The government has begun cracking down on the media and freedom of speech. As of May, more than 50 journalists had been targeted under the country’s Digital Security Act.
Muhammad Yunus has been an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who opened a series of investigations into him when she took power in 2008. After years of alleged harassment by the government, there are multiple legal proceedings against him, and world leaders aren’t happy about it.
Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for pioneering microcredit to help poor people. He founded Grameen Bank in the early 1980s and gave small loans to aspiring business owners who didn’t qualify for traditional bank loans.
In 2011, Grameen Bank fired Yunus after Hasina’s government opened a probe into the bank’s activities. He was accused of violating Bangladesh’s retirement regulations. In 2013, he went on trial for receiving royalties from a book and money from his Nobel Peace Prize without the government’s permission.
In August, Yunus was sued by 18 former Grameen Telecom workers who accused him of stealing from their job benefits. On August 22, the government put him on trial for allegedly violating the country’s labor laws. He has also been named as a defendant in an anti-corruption case.
Calls to Stop Proceedings
Over 170 Nobel laureates and global leaders signed an open letter urging Bengladesh’s prime minister to stop court proceedings against Yunus. Those leaders include former US President Barack Obama (who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009), former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Bono, and many others.
In the letter, the world leaders praised Bangladesh for its progress since declaring independence in 1971. But they expressed deep concern about the “threats to democracy and human rights” in recent years. They said that they believe it’s very important that next year’s elections be “free and fair,” unlike the last two, which they believe “lacked legitimacy.”
The letter went on to call the case against Yunus a threat to human rights. They accused the government of carrying out a pattern of “judicial harassment.” The leaders asked that the government “immediately suspend the current” court cases against the Nobel laureate and order a “review of the charges by a panel of impartial judges.” They went on to express confidence that he would win the cases against him.
Hasina has not ordered the charges to be paused. However, she has claimed the elections would be carried out in a free and fair manner next year.
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