Report of convictions in Malala case denied
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.”
EIGHT convictions were reported in the Malala Yousafzai attack. Police say they were acquittals.