GUJRAT, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani authorities on Wednesday exhumed the body of a woman who police suspect was killed by her father and uncle for refusing an arranged marriage, officials said.
Sana Cheema, a 25-year-old woman of Pakistani origin who had Italian citizenship, died on April 18 in the city of Gujrat in eastern Punjab province.
The case came to light this week after friends shared posts about her death on social media, prompting police to investigate. Her father and uncle have since been arrested and are being investigated.
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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On Wednesday, Irfan Ullah, a senior police officer in Gujarat, told reporters at the scene that police had acted following the social media posts but Cheema’s family had not even notified authorities so officers had to trace her identity first and whether there was even a death.
A local magistrate attended the exhumation of the body, followed by an autopsy after which the woman’s body was reburied.
Forensics expert Dr. Robia, who goes only by a single name, said the Punjab Forensic laboratory would examine collected samples.
“After their report we will be able to give final opinion,” Robia said.
Muhammad Ashraf, a relative, insisted Cheema’s family had done nothing wrong.
“Her parents are innocent, they don’t have any role in her death,” he said.
Cheema graduated from high school in Brescia, Italy, and received Italian citizenship last September. She returned to Pakistan in November. Italian media reported 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. The father and the ex-husband of a British-Pakistani woman, Samia Shahid, were charged in 2016 in her rape and murder, also in Punjab.