Dhaka: A Bangladeshi court is set to rule on whether microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus was illegally sacked from his own bank in a clash between the Nobel laureate and the country`s authorities.
Yunus, 70, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his concept of small cash loans to tackle poverty, was removed from Grameen Bank last week in what his supporters say was part of a political vendetta against him.
He has defied the central Bangladesh Bank`s order, returning to work at Grameen`s headquarters in Dhaka and lodging the High Court case contesting his dismissal.
"The High Court will announce its verdict at 2:00pm (0800 GMT)," Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said, adding the central bank -- which is nominally independent from the government -- was within its rights to fire Yunus.
It removed Yunus on the basis that he had been in his position illegally since not seeking the central bank`s approval when he was reappointed to the post of Grameen Bank managing director in 1999.
Yunus issued a public appeal Tuesday calling on the court to rule fairly on his case, which he said was backed by all Grameen`s eight million borrowers and their extended families.
"The hopes and trust of the families of Grameen Bank, of almost 40 million people, (have been placed) in this honourable court," he wrote in a statement.
Yunus`s lawyers argued that the central bank gave "implied consent" by not raising the issue of his reappointment at Grameen for 12 years and that it was also not the competent authority to fire him.
"The way the hearing was conducted shows we are not going to get justice," Yunus`s lawyer Rokonuddin Mahmud told reporters after the court hearing on Monday.
Supporters say Yunus`s troubles stem from 2007, when he floated the idea of forming a political party, earning the wrath of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has publicly disparaged his work.
In December, following the release of a Norwegian documentary critical of Yunus, Hasina accused him of "sucking blood from the poor" and pulling a financial "trick" to avoid paying tax.
Yunus has since been vilified in the Bangladeshi press, summoned to court three times in cases nominally connected to Grameen and seen his bank become the target of a government probe.
The removal of Yunus sparked street protests in Bangladesh and condemnation from overseas, including from US Senator John Kerry.
Grameen Bank, which is 25 percent state-owned and employs 24,000 people, provides collateral-free loans to eight million borrowers, the vast majority from rural areas.