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Obama writes letter of support as pressure mounts on Dr Yunus

Ex-US President Barack Obama has written a letter of support for Dr Muhammad Yunus, expressing his hope that the Nobel Peace Prize-winning economist can continue to do his ‘important work’.

Dr Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, shared an image of the letter signed by Obama on his verified Facebook page on Sunday.

“I have long been inspired by your efforts to empower people through offering them the means to lift their families and communities out of poverty. As I said when having the opportunity to meet you in the White House in 2009, your work has inspired millions to imagine their own potential,” said the letter from the 44th president of the United States, UNB reports.

“During this period, I hope it gives you strength to know that many whose potential you invested in, and those of us who care about a more equitable economic future for all, are thinking of you, and I hope that you continue to have the freedom to do your important work,” it reads.

The current US president, Joe Biden, served eight years over two terms as vice president to Obama, who is still thought to wield tremendous influence within the ranks of the Democrat party in particular, and US politics in general.

Also on Sunday, 34 eminent citizens of the country expressed ‘deep concern’ over the government’s motives through a series of recent developments that have gone against Bangladesh’s first and till now only Nobel laureate, in a case filed with Dhaka’s No.3 Labour Court.

On August 20, a full bench of the Appellate Division cleared the way for the criminal case to continue against Dr Yunus and his co-defendants, by rejecting a petition to prevent the case from proceeding. The trial commenced two days later.

In a statement circulated to news outlets, the group of concerned citizens called upon the government to stop all sorts of harassment against Dr Yunus. It notes his lawyers’ contention that the allegations brought in the case are civil in nature, yet the government has pursued a criminal case.

“The government’s role in disposing of the case with abnormal haste has become evident recently,” the statement said. It also alleges that Dr Yunus has already been subjected to harassment in the case.

Harassing him in the garb of legal and administrative measures is hampering his work and sending a negative message to the world, the statement adds.

According to case documents in the public domain, the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) visited Grameen Telecom and uncovered various violations of the labour law.

They said 101 workers were supposed to be made permanent, but were not. Workers’ and welfare funds were not constituted. Additionally, 5% of the dividends of Grameen Telecom was supposed to accrue to the workers, but that didn’t happen, the case filed by the DIFE in September 2021 alleged.

Dr Yunus chaired the Board of Trustees of Grameen Telecom, which is registered as a trust. The others accused in the case are his fellow trustees Ashraful Hasan, Md Shahjahan and Noor Jahan Begum.