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Eight people linked to Malala attack are freed

A Pakistani police official said the eight were released, due to a lack of evidence.

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In this 2014 file photo, Malala Yousafzai poses with a bouquet after speaking during a media conference at the Library of Birmingham, in Birmingham, England, after she was named winner of The Nobel Peace Prize.

Rui Vieira/AP/File

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A Pakistani court has freed eight out of 10 people charged with organizing the shooting of Pakistani schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai, police said on Friday.

Senior police official Salim Khan said the eight men were freed because there was not enough evidence to connect them to the 2012 attack. Police had said in April that all 10 had been convicted and jailed for 25 years each in a trial held behind closed doors.

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"The only reason for their release was lack of proof against them," Khan said.

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Pakistani Taliban militants claimed responsibility for attacking Malala as she traveled home from school in her home in Swat, northwest of the capital, Islamabad. She was shot and airlifted to Britain for treatment, where she now lives. Two other schoolgirls were also wounded.

Prosecutor Naeem Khan said the men had confessed to attacking Malala, who became a global symbol of defiance after she campaigned for girl's education despite Taliban repression.

"During the trial, all the 10 persons had admitted and confessed their role in Malala's attack before the judge of anti-terrorism court. But only two of them, Izhar Khan and Israrullah Khan, were convicted while the remaining eight were freed on April 30, 2015," he said.

The case will raise further questions over accountability and secret trials in Pakistan's heavily criticized justice system. Trials are often held behind closed doors because judges, lawyers and witnesses fear retribution from militants.

Friday's ruling contradicts media reports filed on April 30 that quoted a Pakistani public prosecutor who announced the sentencing of the 10 individuals for the violent assault on the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

A Pakistani court on Thursday sentenced 10 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 10 militants who were tried by an anti-terrorist court," he said. In Pakistan 25 years is considered a life sentence.

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Malala was shot by the Pakistani Taliban when she was returning from school. 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.