A secret trial conducted behind closed doors in Pakistan has acquitted eight of the 10 men convicted of trying to kill Malala Yousafzai in a 2012 attack, reports said Friday, citing sources. The 10 men had been found guilty and given 25-year jail terms by a court in April.
The men were arrested last September, and sources told the Daily Mirror that one of the men set free was the mastermind behind the attack on the teen activist. Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner, was shot in the head and shoulder by Taliban fighters for advocating women's education.
“The trial had absolutely no credibility as nobody was there to witness it but a public prosecutor, a judge, the army and the accused,” a source told the Daily Mirror, adding: “This was a tactic to get the media pressure away from the Malala case because the whole world wanted convictions for the crime.”
Muneer Ahmed, a spokesman for the Pakistani High Commission in London, told BBC that the men were freed by the court because of a lack of evidence. Ahmed also said that the court later clarified that only two men were convicted in the original court judgment and that there was misreporting of the case, leading to confusion. The conviction of the two men in the case was also reportedly confirmed by Saleem Marwat, the district police chief in the town of Swat in northern Khyber province, BBC reported.
“Ten men are not behind bars, as the Pakistani authorities would have us believe. That is a big lie,” a security official told the Daily Mirror, adding: “Whether these acquitted men were involved or not in the Malala shooting, the public has been lied to.” A senior security source in Pakistan said the country’s officials had lied and released the men “quietly, to avoid a media fuss,” the report added.
A source also told the Daily Mirror that “the claims of 10 being imprisoned were due to a misunderstanding and it being misreported at the time.”
However, after the April trial, Sayed Naeem, a public prosecutor in Swat, had told the Associated Press: "Each militant got 25 years in jail. It is life in prison for the 10 militants who were tried by an anti-terrorist court." A life sentence in Pakistan is equivalent to 25 years.
Yousafzai, who was initially treated in Pakistan after the attack, was later transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, U.K., where she currently resides.