The Bangladeshi High Court has upheld a decision to remove Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Prize-winning founder of Grameen Bank, from his post as managing director of the microfinance institution, Reuters reports.
Yunus, 70, had defied a previous court order and filed a petition to stay on at the bank despite being older than the country's mandatory retirement age of 60. His supporters argue that the government's decision to remove Yunus from his post is politically motivated and stems from a feud involving Bangladeshi prime minister Sheikh Hasina. Yunus has stated that while he wants to step down from the position, he prefers to do so at a time of his choosing so as to ensure a smooth transition. After the verdict was announced, some two hundred Grameen Bank employees staged a peaceful protest outside the bank, and one of Yunus's attorneys vowed to appeal the decision.
The action against Yunus comes amid increasing criticism of microlending in developing countries from officials and others who accuse microfinance lenders of exploiting the poor. The screening of a Norwegian documentary film that alleged Grameen was dodging taxes fueled the controversy, but the Norwegian government has since absolved the bank of any wrongdoing.
"[Yunus's dismissal] is not merely a legal issue, rather it is a matter of upholding the interest of the poor people," said Akbar Ali Khan, a former advisor to the 2007 Bangladeshi caretaker government. "I appeal to the government to reconsider the decision of the central bank and believe there is still room for discussion...[to resolve the issue amicably]. Otherwise, the institution will be eventually destroyed."