Pakistani police said Friday that eight of 10 men implicated in the shooting of child rights activist Malala Yousafzai had been acquitted and not convicted as widely reported in April.
The news caused widespread confusion over the case of Malala, 17, a Nobel Peace laureate who has championed the right of Pakistani girls to attend school. It was not immediately clear why Pakistani news reports originally said 10 men had been convicted, or why police did not refute those reports.
“Two of the 10 were sentenced to life imprisonment while eight others were acquitted due to a lack of evidence,” Salim Khan Marwat, police chief in Yousafzai’s home district of Swat, told reporters.
Pakistani news media reported on April 30 that 10 men had been convicted of involvement in the 2012 shooting and sentenced to 25 years each in prison by an anti-terrorism court in Swat. The trial took place in secret, but the reports of the convictions immediately spread across Pakistan and the world.
“The media feels betrayed by authorities,” said Fayyaz Zafar, a Swat-based senior journalist. “The proceedings of the case were kept secret and only a few people knew about it.”
Pakistan’s anti-terrorism laws empower judges to conduct trials behind closed doors. The entire trial involving Malala’s attack was kept a closely guarded secret and conducted in an interment center at Swat, officials said.
Waseem Ahmad Shah, a journalist in the northern city of Peshawar, said terrorism trials were wrapped in secrecy that often led to misreporting of facts.
“The entire trial of Malala Yousafzai was kept a closely guarded secret and conducted under the supervision of the Pakistani army,” Shah said. “Media had no access to the trial and that was the major reason why the case was misreported.”
The child rights activist was attacked Oct. 9, 2012, as she was going home from school, leaving her critically injured. Two other girls, Kainat Riaz and Shazia Rehman, also were injured in the attack.
Malala’s family members said they were surprised by the news.
“Ziauddin Yousafzai, her father, gave me a call today [Friday]. He came to know about the news from British media and was unaware about proceedings of the case,” said Ahmed Shah, a close friend of the family. “He did not show much interest in the case as well.
“The whole proceedings of this case were kept secret,” Shah said. “Nobody even knows who represented Malala in the case.”
Special correspondents Sahi reported from Islamabad and Ali from Peshawar. Saher Baloch in Los Angeles contributed to this report.