A collective of 171 distinguished citizens, intellectuals, and professionals within the nation have come together to issue a resounding declaration, a clarion call, in direct opposition to the global leaders’ plea for the suspension of legal proceedings against Nobel laureate, Dr. Muhammad Yunus.
This open letter, authored by a consortium of Nobel laureates, politicians, prominent businessmen, and members of civil society from diverse corners of the world, has raised a poignant concern. It appears as more than a mere request; it signs as a looming threat, a shadow cast upon the sovereignty and the integrity of Bangladesh’s independent judiciary.
Ethical and legal questions
Within the folds of this letter lies a call to halt the ongoing legal proceedings against Muhammad Yunus, a call that deeply troubles conscientious citizens within our nation. Such unwarranted intercession into Bangladesh’s judicial process sparks grave concerns.
As the statement, passionately articulated by Dhaka University Professor Nisar Hossain on behalf of the 171 signatories, emphasizes, “Several legal and ethical questions come to the fore in the wake of the said open letter. According to Article 94(4) of the Constitution of Bangladesh, judges are completely independent in their judicial work.”
Indeed, the Constitution is explicit on this matter, making it abundantly clear that no one, regardless of their position in state governance, not even the Prime Minister, holds any jurisdiction to meddle in the sanctity of the judicial process.
The statement boldly asserts, “The content of the said letter starkly contradicts the Constitution of Bangladesh and the fundamental rights of workers as recognized by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).”
Furthermore, it unequivocally condemns the call for the trial of Yunus to be conducted by a “neutral judge” as a disservice to Bangladesh’s judicial system, a stain upon its reputation.
“It is imperative to acknowledge that the trial of Muhammad Yunus is being conducted independently and in accordance with the established laws of Bangladesh. In this context, the assertion of ‘judicial harassment’ lacks substance and is unwarranted. Dr. Yunus, as an independent citizen of Bangladesh, has consistently engaged in various endeavors both within the country and internationally,” the statement underscores.
“Bangladesh maintains a close and meaningful relationship with the countries of the individuals who have endorsed the open letter. We earnestly hope that the petitioners will extend the same courtesy and respect to Bangladesh’s judicial system as they do to their own respective legal systems,” the statement further adds.
The list of signatories encompasses a diverse array of distinguished individuals, including educators, economists, legal experts, journalists, actors, writers, and prominent figures in the world of theater.
Who are the signators?
Among the signatories are notable educationists such as Shariff Enamul Kabir, former Vice-Chancellor of Jahangirnagar University; Syed Anwar Husain, former history professor of Dhaka University; Kamrul Hasan Khan, former Vice-Chancellor of BSMMU; Dr. Mustafa Jalal Mohiuddin, President of the Bangladesh Medical Association; Prof. Nazrul Islam, former Chairman of the University Grants Commission; Prof. Harun-Ur-Rashid Askari, former Vice-Chancellor of Islamic University Bangladesh; Prof. Dr. Mohammad Fayek Uzzaman, former Vice-Chancellor of Khulna University; physicist Dr. AA Mamun; historian Muntasir Mamun; and Prof. Atiur Rahman, emeritus professor and former governor of Bangladesh Bank.
Theatre luminaries such as Hasan Imam, Ramendu Majumdar, Mamunur Rashid, Suborna Mustafa, Pijush Bandyopadhyay, Lucky Enam, and Chanchal Chowdhury have also lent their names to the statement.
Additionally, the statement bears the signatures of poet Nirmalendu Goon, journalist Abed Khan, sociologist and writer Prof. Bulbul Osman, journalist Ajoy Dasgupta, journalist Shyamal Dutta, writer Shahriar Kabir, Engineer Nurul Huda, Kazi Saifuddin Abbas, the General Secretary of Projonmo ’71, Momtazuddin Fakir, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, and artist and freedom fighter Shahabuddin Ahmed.
50 Editors protest open letter on Yunus
Fifty editors of national print medias, released a joint statement yesterday expressing their objections to the open letter by foreign individuals in support of Dr. Muhammad Yunus, addressed to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
“Some foreign noted personalities, including Nobel laureates, politicians, businessmen and civil society members, on August 28 issued an open letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, calling to stop the ongoing trial proceedings against Dr Muhammad Yunus under Bangladesh’s labour law. It is an undue interference in the independent judiciary of a sovereign country; we strongly protest it,” they said.
In reference to Article 94(4) of the Bangladeshi constitution, which establishes the complete independence of the country’s judiciary, the editors emphasized that the issuance of such a letter constitutes what they believe to be unethical, illegal, and unconstitutional interference in Bangladesh’s independent judicial system.
The editors further pointed out that such statements or open letters directly contravene the principles outlined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the labour rights laws of Bangladesh.
The editors expressed their disapproval of statements and letters from globally renowned Nobel laureates, deeming them undesirable and unethical. They added that the demand for immunity from prosecution contradicts the principles of justice and the rule of law.
Regarding these individuals’ understanding of Dr. Yunus’s legal cases, the editors extended an invitation to them or their representatives to visit Bangladesh and assess whether Dr. Yunus faces any undue harassment. They also echoed their support for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s stance on this matter.
The editors asserted that the comments in the letter concerning democracy and elections in Bangladesh amount to direct interference in the affairs of an independent and sovereign state. They emphasized that as citizens of a nation that fought for its independence during the Liberation War, the people of Bangladesh will not tolerate such disrespectful, unwelcome, and unlawful interference from any source.
Supreme Court Bar Association rebuts global leaders’ letter as misinformed
In parallel, the Bangladesh Supreme Court Bar Association has issued a press release asserting that the open letter from global leaders constitutes an unwarranted intrusion into Bangladesh’s internal affairs. They have stated, “The contents of the letter are predicated on erroneous information. Had they been privy to the truth, they would not have composed such a missive.”
Furthermore, 13 cultural organizations under the Sammilita Sangskritik Jote have voiced their concerns regarding the open letter in a statement released yesterday. They assert, “The call to cease legal proceedings against Dr. Yunus constitutes a direct assault on the principles of the rule of law and the independence of a nation’s judiciary. We vehemently protest against this illegal and unwarranted demand.”
On September 9, 2021, Labour Inspector General SM Arifuzzaman from the Inspection for Factories and Establishments Department filed a case for labor law violations against four individuals, including Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus.
According to the case documents, officials from the Inspection for Factories and Establishments Department conducted an inspection of the Grameen Telecom office in Mirpur, the capital, on August 16, 2021. During this inspection, they uncovered several violations of labor laws.
On June 6 of the same year, charges were formally framed against the accused parties, including Professor Yunus, in connection with this case. Subsequently, the trial for this case commenced on August 22.