According to police, a Pakistani court has released eight out of ten men charged for orchestrating the shooting of schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai in a move that raises questions about the country’s already heavily criticized justice system.
Taliban militants in Pakistan claimed responsibility for Malala’s attack in 2012 as she was travelling home in Swat, northeast of the Islamic Republic’s capital Islamabad. She was shot in the head and airlifted to Britain to receive treatment, where she now resides. Another two schoolgirls were wounded.
Malala was catapulted into the spotlight as a global symbol of defiance after campaigning for girls’ education under the Taliban’s repressive policies. She won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
Due to the lack of evidence implicating the eight men to the 2012 attack, the eight men were released, said senior police official Salim Khan.
In April, police had said that all ten men had been convicted and sentenced to 25 years each in a trial held behind closed doors. The reason why authorities had given incorrect information remains unclear.
Meanwhile, prosecutor Naeem Khan said that the men had confessed to the court that they assisted in planning the attack though none was convicted as the gunman, who forces believe had fled Afghanistan.
“During the trial, all the 10 persons had admitted and confessed their role in Malala’s attack before the judge of the anti-terrorism court. But only two of them, Izhar Khan and Israrullah Khan, were convicted while the remaining eight were freed,” Khan said.
He added that the trial took place inside the main prison in Swat Jail following military threats.
Khan said he filed an appeal against the acquittal on May 18 despite the fact that the men had already been released on April 30.
The case also raises concerns over the competence of Pakistan’s police, accountability, and secret trials.
Police tend to be poorly trained and ill-equipped, with most not trained in gathering evidence. Basic procedures, such as securing crime scenes, are rarely followed, and cases hinge primarily on unreliable oral testimonies, leading judges to dismiss major cases involving militant attacks.
Judges, lawyers and witnesses, in fear of retribution from militants, often conduct trials behind closed doors.