Bangladesh microfinancier Muhammad Yunus has been released on bail after appearing on libel charges before a judge in Mymensnigh, near Dhaka. He had been accused of slandering a number of Bangladeshi politicians in a 2007 interview with French press agency AFP.
Mr Yunus allegedly said that about politicians that "They are only after money. Their politics has nothing to do with ideology." A representative of a small leftwing party, Nazrul Islam Chunnu, lodged a defamation complaint against the micro banker, whose main claim to fame is supplying micro loans to poor people who want to start their own business. Mr Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 in recognition of his initiatives to make credits accessible to the poor.
Over 500 people had gathered outside the bank on Tuesday to catch a glimpse of Yunus, who remains very popular in Bangladesh.
The court released him on bail "because his lawyers said he is an important international person, and he can't possibly be in court every day", according to a court spokespersron. Yunus will be allowed to send a representative when the court is next dealing with his case on 20 February.
In another case, a judge ordered a thorough investigation of Mr Yunus' Grameen Bank. A Norway TV documentary reported a misuse of Norwegian aid money by the bank. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed is also targeting Grameen Bank, accusing microcredit organisations of "sucking the poor" and claiming that Mr Yunus is evading taxes.
The investigation of Yunus and his Grameen Bank coincide with criticism in India of microfinance. Bangladesh's neighbour said that the microloan banks are exploiting the poor and are imposing usurious interests.
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