A PAKISTANI court yesterday sentenced ten militants to life in prison for their involvement in the 2012 attack on teenage activist Malala Yousafzai, a public prosecutor said.
Sayed Naeem said the court announced the ruling at an undisclosed location because of security concerns.
“Each militant got 25 years in jail. It is life in prison for the ten militants who were tried by an anti-terrorist court,” he said. In Pakistan, 25 years is considered a life sentence. These were the first convictions for the attack.
Malala was shot in the head by the Pakistani Taleban when she was returning from school in her home in Swat, northwest of the capital, Islamabad.
Two other schoolgirls were also wounded.
The militants targeted her because she advocated education for women. Malala was initially treated in Pakistan, but was later flown to a hospital in Britain, where she now lives with her family.
Since then, Malala has become a symbol of defiance in the fight against militants operating in ethnic Pashtun areas in northwest Pakistan. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
A security official said none of the four or five men who carried out the attack on Malala was among the ten men sentenced yesterday.
Ataullah Khan, a 23-year-old militant, was identified by a police report at the time of the shooting – but he did not appear in the list of convicted men released.
The exact charges the men faced remain unclear.
“But certainly they had a role in the planning and execution of the assassination attempt on Malala,” said a police official in Swa
Police believe the gunman who shot Malala escaped across the border into Afghanistan. Mullah Fazlullah, the Taleban leader who ordered the attack, is still at large, as are other militants who took part in it.
The ten defendants who were sentenced yesterday were detained by the military last year.
Fazlullah, a fiery preacher from Swat, is also believed to be hiding out in eastern Afghanistan.
By the time Malala was shot in October 2012, most militants had been cleared from the valley but people who spoke out were still at risk.
Malala is unable to return home because of ongoing Taleban threats to kill her and members of her family. Pakistan’s mountainous Swat valley was ruled by the Taleban from 2007 to 2009.
It was the threat by Mullah Fazlullah to close down schools offering girls’ education that led to Malala’s Diary, which was written when she was just 11 years old.
The blog, which described life under the Taleban, was anonymous, but the schoolgirl also began to campaign publicly for children’s rights.
Last summer, Pakistan launched a major offensive in the North Waziristan tribal region, a longtime haven for the Taleban and other militant groups.