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Body Of Suspected Victim Of Honor Killing Exhumed In Pakistan

Pakistani police beside the grave of Sana Cheema before her exhumation on April 25
Pakistani police beside the grave of Sana Cheema before her exhumation on April 25

Pakistani authorities have exhumed the body of an Italian woman to determine whether she was killed by members of her family for refusing an arranged marriage, officials said on April 25.

Sana Cheema, 25, an Italian citizen of Pakistani descent, died on April 18 in the city of Gujrat in eastern Punjab Province while visiting relatives.

The case came to light this week after friends shared posts about her death on social media, prompting police to investigate. Police earlier in the week detained Cheema's father and uncle for questioning.

Pakistani police said a local magistrate attended the exhumation of Cheema's body so an autopsy could be performed.

Her relatives claim she died of an unspecified illness, but police are investigating suspicions that she was killed after refusing to marry a man her family had chosen for her.

Cheema graduated from high school in Brescia, Italy, and received Italian citizenship in September. Italian media reported she was in love with a man from Brescia who she wanted to marry.

If confirmed, her case would be the second recently publicized "honor killing" in Punjab involving Western women of Pakistani descent. A father and the ex-husband of a British-Pakistani woman, Samia Shahid, were charged in 2016 over her murder.

Hundreds of women are killed every year in Pakistan in so-called honor killings for violating conservative Pakistani traditions on love, marriage, and public behavior.

Pakistan's parliament passed legislation against honor killings in 2016, introducing tough punishment and removing a loophole in the law that allowed killers to walk free if pardoned by family members.

Police in Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province, said recently the number of honor killings has fallen since the law was introduced.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

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