Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus is granted bail in a Bangladesh graft case

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DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A court in Bangladesh on Sunday granted bail to Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus in a $2.3 million embezzlement case.

Yunus, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for pioneering the use of microcredit to help impoverished people, was sentenced to six months in prison in January on a separate charge of violating labor laws. He was granted bail in that case too and has appealed.

Prosecutor Mir Ahmmad Ali Salam said the embezzlement case involves a workers welfare fund of Grameen Telecom, which owns 34.2% of the country’s largest mobile phone company, Grameenphone, a subsidiary of Norway’s telecom giant Telenor.

“The charges involve the embezzlement of over 250 million takas and money laundering. The accused gave the money to trade union leaders instead of the workers. This way they deprived the ordinary workers of their rightful earnings,” Salam said.

Yunus and seven other defendants appeared in court Sunday and six others were absent.

Defense counsel Abdullah Al Mamun told the court that Yunus, 83, and the others were innocent.

Last year, more than 170 global leaders and Nobel laureates urged Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to suspend legal proceedings against Yunus. His supporters say he has been targeted because of his frosty relations with Hasina. The government has denied the allegations.