ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani police on Tuesday arrested the father and the uncle suspected in an “honor” killing of a 25-year-old Italian citizen, a woman of Pakistani origin who refused to marry the man they chose for her.
The two men were charged with the killing of Sana Cheema in the neighborhood of Mangowal in the city of Gujrat in eastern Punjab province, police official Intisar Hussain said, adding that the police were still searching for the woman’s brother.
“He is also suspected of playing a role in her murder,” Hussain said.
Nearly 1,000 women are killed every year in Pakistan in so-called “honor killings,” cases in which members of their families or relatives kill them for violating conservative norms on love, marriage and public behavior.
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The Italian Foreign Ministry said it was following the case through its embassy in Islamabad, which was gathering information from Pakistani authorities to define the circumstances of the case and offer any assistance that might be necessary.
Pakistani police say Cheema died on April 18 under mysterious circumstances. Her body is expected to be exhumed on Wednesday morning to determine the cause of death.
Cheema’s case came to light after her friends shared posts on social media about her death, eventually prompting police to arrest her family members.
The death was reported earlier this week by a local Italian newspaper, Giornale di Brescia, amid conflicting reports that attributed her killing to refusing an arranged marriage or a sudden illness 10 days earlier.
Members of the Pakistani community in Brescia, Italy, rallied this weekend there, demanding the truth about her death.
Cheema graduated from high school in Brescia, receiving Italian citizenship last September. She opened an agency that handled paperwork for driver’s licenses but it closed a while later. She returned to Pakistan in November, the news agency ANSA reported.
Hussain also said Cheema was twice taken to hospital by her family earlier this month, and that the police are trying to get details from the doctors about her hospital stays.
According to Italian media, she was in love with a man from Brescia who like her was a second-generation immigrant with Italian citizenship.
If confirmed, her case will be the second recently publicized honor killing in Punjab where the father and the ex-husband of a British-Pakistani woman, Samia Shahid, were charged in 2016 over her rape and murder.
The trial in Shahid’s case is still underway but her father died last year, leaving only her ex-husband in the docks now.
Associated Press writer Colleen Barry contributed to this story from Milan, Italy.