The Pakistani police and the country’s public prosecutor said Friday that eight out of 10 militants charged with involvement in the 2012 attack on teenage activist and later Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai were actually acquitted in April — and not sentenced to life in prison as reported at the time.
The stunning announcement, which first came from Pakistan’s deputy police chief, Azad Khan, offered no explanation as to why authorities had remained silent for so many weeks or why they had failed to correct the facts earlier.
In April, public prosecutor Sayed Naeem said 10 militants charged over the attack were all convicted by an anti-terrorism court and sentenced to life imprisonment. At the time, he said the court announced the ruling at an undisclosed location because of security concerns.
On Friday, Naeem said only two of the militants were imprisoned for life while the others were acquitted due to lack of evidence.
Nobel Peace Prize winners Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India shake hands during the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
The prosecutor claimed reporters misquoted him at the time. He refused to further discuss the case and only added that he had already filed an appeal against the acquittal of the eight men.
Naeem made his comments shortly after Khan spoke.
“I can only confirm that the anti-terrorism court in April had acquitted eight out of 10 militants accused of attacking Malala,” Khan told The Associated Press.
He said he did not know why the government or the public prosecutor had not clarified media reports about the sentencing of the men involved in attack on Malala earlier.
Another senior Pakistani police officer, Salim Marwat, confirmed to AP on Friday that eight were acquitted in the April 30 court ruling but refused to elaborate on details.
“We will continue our efforts to arrest all those who were linked to the attack on Malala and who are at large,” he said.
Malala’s press representatives in London declined to comment on the reports.