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The World

March 6, 2011

Court defers ruling on Nobel laureate's dismissal

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh's High Court has delayed its ruling on the legality of a government order dismissing Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus as head of the microfinance bank he founded, an official said Sunday.

Attorney General Mahbub-e-Alam said the court is likely to rule Monday.

Lawyers for Yunus made more arguments Sunday and presented documents arguing that his dismissal is illegal, Alam said. The government is to respond Monday.

Bangladesh's central bank ordered Yunus out of Grameen Bank last Wednesday, saying he violated the country's retirement laws.

Yunus' bank, founded in 1983, pioneered the concept of reducing poverty by making tiny loans to the poor. His work spurred a boom in such lending across the developing world and earned him and the bank the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.

The government holds 25 percent share of the bank and the remainder is owned by its borrowers.

Yunus, 70, an outspoken government critic, has recently been under pressure at home, where he has long had frosty relations with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. She has accused Grameen Bank and other microfinance institutions of charging high interest rates and "sucking blood from the poor borrowers."

She reportedly was angered by Yunus' 2007 attempt to form his own political party, backed by the country's powerful army.

The move to oust Yunus from Grameen has sparked criticism in Bangladesh and abroad. Borrowers and supporters of the bank held human chain protests in parts of Bangladesh on Saturday to demand the withdrawal of the government order, local media reported.

In Washington, Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed concern over efforts to remove Yunus and said the international community would watch the situation closely. He said he hoped both sides could reach a compromise that maintains Grameen Bank's autonomy and that Yunus' "lifelong work to reduce poverty and empower women through microloans has deservedly received worldwide attention and respect."

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