Reports have emerged that eight out of the 10 men reportedly jailed for the attempted assassination of Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani teenage schoolgirl and right activist, have been secretly acquitted.
In April, officials in Pakistan said that 10 Taliban fighters had been found guilty and received 25-year jail terms, considered a life sentence in Pakistan. But sources have now confirmed that only two of the men who stood trial were convicted.
A Pakistani security official revealed that a secret trial was held at a military facility rather than a court and eight of the earlier convicted men were acquitted. The secrecy surrounding the trial, which was held behind closed doors, raised suspicions over its validity.
Anti-terrorism trials in Pakistan are not open to the public and 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.
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.
Ahmed claimed that the original court judgement made it clear only two men had been convicted and blamed the confusion on misreporting.
The secret acquittals emerged after reporters from the London-based Daily Mirror attempted to locate the 10 convicted men in prisons in Pakistan. The whereabouts of the eight acquitted men is not known.
Yousafzai, who is now 17, was targeted by Taliban gunmen in 2012 while she was travelling home from school in the town of Mingora after campaigning for education rights for girls. The gunmen boarded a bus and asked for her by name before shooting her in the head.