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Microcredit Pioneer Yunus Loses Appeal in Bangladesh Supreme Court

Mohammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the Grameen Bank, speaks during a press conference in New Delhi, India, March 31, 2009 (file photo)

In Bangladesh, the Supreme Court has upheld an order dismissing microcredit pioneer Mohammad Yunus from Grameen Bank, which he founded. Following international pressure, however, the government has been in talks with the Nobel laureate to reach a compromise.

When the appeal by Yunus against his dismissal as managing director of the bank came up on Tuesday, the one-word order by the Supreme Court said "rejected.”

The Central Bank had sacked the 70-year-old founder in March for violating Bangladesh's retirement laws by staying on past the age of 60.

Although Yunus has lost the last legal option for challenging his dismissal, there are hopes that this may not be the final word on his association with the Grameen Bank, which provides small loans to the poor. The government has been in talks with Yunus in recent weeks following international pressure to reach a compromise with him.

There has been huge criticism by the United States and other countries of the sacking of a man who is internationally renowned. Yunus showed the way for giving small loans to poor people to help lift them out of poverty and laid the foundation of a banking model followed in scores of countries. He won a Nobel Prize in 2006 for his efforts.

During a visit to Dhaka last month, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake pushed for a dialogue between the government and Yunus to find what he called a "mutually acceptable solution."

A top official of the Awami League Party, Abdul Jalil, is hopeful of a compromise. "They are discussing the matters. I think the solution will be there. It will be solved. There will be an understanding honoring both the sides," he said.

But as of now, the Supreme Court order means that Yunus can no longer return to work, which he continued to do after challenging his firing - first in the High Court and then in the Supreme Court.

Both Yunus and his supporters have called his dismissal politically motivated, saying it was part of the government’s plan to wrest control of the Grameen Bank. Analysts say Yunus fell out of favor with the ruling Awami League when he made a short-lived attempt to begin his own political party in 2007.