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Muhammad Yunus, Bangladeshi Nobel laureate sacked by Grameen, loses appeal

Muhammad Yunus, the winner of a Nobel peace prize for his pioneering work in microfinancing sacked from his position as head of the Grameen Bank, will appeal against a court ruling that backed his removal.

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Microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus (C) emerges from the high court building to contest the decision to remove him from his post in Grameen Bank, in Dhaka on March 3, 2011. Bangladesh's Nobel-winning microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus began a legal battle March 3 to overturn an attempt by the government to sack him from the bank he founded. (STRDEL/Getty Images)

Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi Nobel laureate sacked from his position as head of the pioneering Grameen Bank, will appeal to the Supreme Court against a court ruling that backed his removal, his lawyers said Tuesday.

The high court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by Yunus, 70, awarded the 2006 Nobel peace prize for tackling poverty through his "microfinance" cash loans to small farmers and villagers, challenging his dismissal last week.

Yunus said Monday and that his dismissal as head of the microfinancing bank he founded was political, as the government was trying to gain control of Grameen. He said the bank should remain in the hands of its poor borrowers, VOA reported.

The bank removed Yunus on the basis that he failed to seek its approval when he was reappointed indefinitely in 1999.

But Yunus — awarded the 2006 peace prize for his work with microfinancing — defied the order by returning to work at Grameen's headquarters in Dhaka and lodged a court appeal contesting his sacking.

"We will be taking an appeal forward, we hope as soon as tomorrow," Sara Hossain reportedly said Tuesday.

Founded by Yunus 34 years ago, Grameen has about $955 million in outstanding loans to about 8.3 million borrowers, mostly poor women, according to the Financial Times

The Grameen Bank board in 2000 reappointed Yunus as managing director for an indefinite period, despite his exceeding the usual retirement age of 60-65. 

"There is no such thing as an appointment for life. Yunus should have rejected this appointment when the Grameen Bank board made it," Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said, according to the Bangkok Post.

In its decision, the court rejected Yunus’ claim that his sacking by the Bangladesh Bank, the financial sector regulator that is nominally independent from the government, was arbitrary and illegal.

Judge Muhammad Mamtaj Uddin Ahmed said Tuesday: "Yunus has been continuing in his job with no legal basis. Therefore his petition is rejected."

He added: "Also, the managing director is an officer of the bank, and the mandatory retirement age for bank officers is 60, so he has exceeded his retirement age long ago."

Yunus has been under attack from the government for alleged financial irregularities at Grameen. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has publicly disparaged the work of the man dubbed "banker to the poor." 

Supporters say Yunus's troubles stem from 2007, when he floated the idea of forming a political party.

The microfinance movement has rapidly expanded into a global industry concerned with providing profits to investors, sparking debate over whether it has lost sight of its main goal of alleviating poverty, according to the FT.

Grameen, considered to have set the gold standard in ethical provision of credit, and other financial services, to the poor, has been emulated by microlenders across the developing world.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/110308/yunus-bangladesh-grameen-bank-nobel