Report of con­vic­tions in Malala case de­nied

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Aoun Sahi and Zul­fiqar Ali Spe­cial cor­re­spon­dents Sahi re­ported from Is­lam­abad and Ali from Pe­shawar, Pak­istan. Sa­her Baloch in Los An­ge­les con­trib­uted to this report.

IS­LAM­ABAD, Pak­istan — Pak­istani po­lice say that eight of 10 men im­pli­cated in the shoot­ing of child rights ac­tivist Malala Yousafzai had been ac­quit­ted, not con­victed as was 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 Fri­day.

Pak­istani news re­ports said April 30 that 10 men had been con­victed in the 2012 shoot­ing and sen­tenced to 25 years each by an anti-ter­ror­ism court in Swat. The trial was held in se­cret, but re­ports of the con­vic­tions im­me­di­ately spread across Pak­istan and the­world.

“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 trial of the men ac­cused in Malala’s at­tack was kept se­cret and con­ducted in an in­tern­ment 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 in­cor­rect re­port­ing.

“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 that­was the ma­jor rea­son why the case­was mis­re­ported.”

The ed­u­ca­tion 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 aswell.

“The whole pro­ceed­ings of this case were kept se­cret,” Shah said. “No­body even knows who rep­re­sented Malala in the case.”

Rui Vieira As­so­ci­ated Press

EIGHT con­vic­tions were re­ported in the Malala Yousafzai at­tack. Po­lice say they were ac­quit­tals.

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