Eight Malala shooting suspects acquitted
PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Eight of the 10 men reportedly convicted and jailed for attempting to murder Pakistani schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai were actually cleared, officials said Friday, June 5.
The Nobel-prize winning teenager was shot in the head in October 2012 by Pakistani Taliban militants who boarded her school bus in an attack that also wounded two of her friends and shocked the world.
In April, legal and security officials announced that a court had sentenced 10 men to life imprisonment over the attack, following a trial in Malala's hometown of Mingora, in Pakistan's northwestern Swat district.
The suspects had been detained by the army during a major anti-militant offensive and the existence of the trial was kept secret until after its conclusion. No media were present for any hearings.
Salim Khan Marwat, the Swat district police chief, said that contrary to the earlier announcement, the anti-terrorist court had cleared all but two of the suspects.
"Two of them were sentenced to life imprisonment while eight others were acquitted," he told Agence France-Presse.
"I have no knowledge where the eight persons are now – either in military custody or released."
Azad Khan, the deputy inspector general of police for Malakand division, of which Swat forms a part, confirmed the details and said the trial had been held under military supervision.
A senior court official with close knowledge of the case also confirmed the news, which emerged in a report in Britain's Mirror newspaper.
"Two of them were convicted and eight others were acquitted because of insufficient evidence and no proof," the official told AFP.
"The two, Israrullah and Izhar were sentenced to 25 years jail term, which is equivalent to life imprisonment."
A senior security official in Mingora insisted the court had sentenced all 10 men to life imprisonment, accusing the police of lying.
Malala, now aged 17, survived the attempt on her life and in October last year became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in history for her courageous and determined fight for children to have the right to go to school.
The man suspected of actually firing the gun at Malala, named by officials as Ataullah Khan, is believed to be on the run in Afghanistan, along with Pakistani Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah, who ordered the attack.
Pakistan's military announced the arrest of the 10 suspects in September 2014 as part of an operation that involved the army, police and intelligence agencies.
Army spokesman Asim Bajwa said the group had a hitlist of 22 targets in addition to Malala, all ordered by Fazlullah.
Soon after the attack in 2012, Malala was taken to the United Kingdom for treatment and never returned to Pakistan after recovery. She has resumed her studies in the UK and aspires to become Prime Minister of Pakistan in future.
The Swat Valley was under the de facto control of Pakistani Taliban commander Fazlullah from 2007 to 2009, where it imposed a harsh brand of Sharia law and carried out public floggings and hangings.
Malala rose to fame during that time when she wrote a diary for BBC's Urdu service using a pen name and later appeared on TV talk shows, advocating for girls' education in the valley, and for peace.
The militants were driven out by an army operation after a ceasefire broke down, but remain a threat in the region.
Pakistan has been battling a homegrown Islamist insurgency for more than a decade after it agreed to cooperate with US-led NATO forces in their war in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Public opinion however has shifted heavily against the Taliban in recent times after a series of brazen attacks on civilian targets, including a school in Peshawar where more than 150 people – mostly children – were killed. – Rappler.com