Eight of the 10 men reportedly jailed for the attempted assassination of Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai were actually set free, it has emerged.

In April, officials in Pakistan said that 10 Taliban fighters had been found guilty and received 25-year sentences.

But sources have now confirmed to the BBC that only two of the men who stood trial were convicted.

The secrecy surrounding the trial, which was held behind closed doors, raised suspicions over its validity.

Muneer Ahmed, a spokesman for the Pakistani High Commission in London, said on Friday that the eight men were acquitted because of a lack of evidence.

Saleem Marwat, the district police chief in Swat, Pakistan separately confirmed that only two men had been convicted.

Mr Ahmed claimed that the original court judgement made it clear only two men had been convicted and blamed the confusion on misreporting.

But Sayed Naeem, a public prosecutor in Swat, told Associated Press after the trial: “Each militant got 25 years in jail. It is life in prison for the 10 militants who were tried by an anti-terrorist court.” In Pakistan, a life sentence is 25 years.

The acquittals emerged after reporters from the London-based Daily Mirror attempted to locate the 10 convicted men in prisons in Pakistan.

Secret trial

The trial was held at a military facility rather than a court, a Pakistani security source told the BBC, and was shrouded in secrecy. Anti-terrorism trials in Pakistan are not open to the public.

Pakistani authorities did not make the judgement available at any stage, nor did they correct the reports over the past two months that 10 men had been convicted.

The announcement of the convictions in April took many by surprise. No journalists had been made aware that the trial was taking place.

Pakistani authorities did not say when and where the men had been arrested or how they were linked to the attack, or explain the charges against them.

Ms Yousafzai, who is now 17, was targeted by Taliban gunmen while she was travelling home from school in the town of Mingora.

The gunmen boarded a bus and asked for her by name before shooting her in the head.

She was treated for her injuries in the UK and currently lives in Birmingham with her family. They are unable to return to Pakistan because of Taliban death threats.

Ms Yousafzai was targeted after campaigning for education rights for girls. She also wrote an anonymous blog for the BBC’s Urdu service, describing life under the Taliban.

Pakistan’s mountainous Swat valley, where she lived with her family, was overrun by the Taliban between 2007 and 2009.

via Eight out of 10 Malala suspects ‘secretly acquitted’ – BBC News.

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