We need to talk about this: 8 of Malala’s shooting suspects are now free

Malala Yousafzai has been called “the most famous teenager in the world,” and it may be true. The youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate is now a household name thanks to the work she has done in Pakistan, advocating for education for women during a time when the local Taliban often banned girls from attending school. Malala’s grassroots advocacy has become an international movement.

As known as she is for her record-breaking Nobel and her cause, it’s possible that what Malala is most known for is the attempt on her life. In 2012, after boarding her school bus, a Taliban assassin asked for her by name, then proceeded to point his gun at her, and fire. One bullet went into her forehead, traveled the length of her face, and landed in her shoulder. Malala miraculously survived the attempted assassination, and this nightmarish story quickly spread around the world, making Malala a celebrity and her cause one of international concern. Eventually Malala was taken to the UK for surgery, and she now remains there where she is continuing her education.

As CNN reports, a Pakistani court just overturned the life sentences of eight people who had previously been convicted for their roles in Malala’s attempted assassination. The court is upholding only two of the sentences of the 10 people convicted for this crime. The accused were arrested this past September, and convicted this past April in a secret trial. The Wall Street Journal put this news into a larger context writing, “The apparent acquittals and the secrecy surrounding the trial will raise further questions about Pakistan’s justice system, which has been criticized for years for failing to adequately investigate and prosecute terrorists.”

When asked why eight of these convicted criminals are now being released, Saleem Khan Marwat, a police officer in Swat, where the shooting took place, explained to CNN that the court decided “not enough evidence was produced” to justify life sentences for the eight individuals, “whereas proof was provided (for) the two convicted.”

So much of the reasoning behind these eight overturned convictions is shrouded in mystery. The trial itself was held behind closed doors, and we don’t know what happened during those days, nor do we know what changed to warrant the overturning vast majority of convictions.

We are, of course, deeply unsettled by this news, and while we continue to be grateful that Malala is alive and well, we worry about what these mysterious overturned convictions say about the justice system in Pakistan. It is disconcerting to think that, even with the world watching, justice failed to be served.

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