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Thursday 26 April 2018

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
Abbas Edalat

A British-Iranian dual citizen has been detained by Iranian authorities since mid-April, a human rights group and friends of the man's family say.

The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on April 25 identified the man as Abbas Edalat, a professor of computer science and mathematics at Imperial College in London.

"Iran's continued arbitrary arrests of dual nationals without transparency and lack of due process is extremely concerning," said Hadi Ghaemi, CHRI's executive director.

Edalat traveled to Iran from his home in London at an unknown date to attend an academic workshop, according to family friends and the rights group.

He was arrested at his family's home in Tehran on April 15 by Iran's hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and taken to the notorious Evin prison. Security forces seized a computer, phone, textbooks, and other items.

Friends say the charges are unknown and the man has not had access to a lawyer.

The CHRI said Edalat refused to post bail on April 25, arguing that he was innocent and should be released immediately.

The British Foreign Office said in a statement that it was "urgently seeking information from the Iranian authorities following reports of the arrest of a British-Iranian dual national."

In early 2017, Edalat said in an interview that he had stopped submitting research papers to U.S. conferences after President Donald Trump issued a travel ban on mostly Muslim-majority countries, including Iran.

The CHRI described him as the founder of the U.S.-based Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran, a group that opposes foreign intervention in Iran.

Iran's IRGC has arrested at least 30 dual nationals since 2015, mostly on spying charges, according to Reuters.

At least two other British-Iranian citizens are known to be held in Iran.

One unidentified British-Iranian man was sentenced in March to six years in prison on spying charges.

With reporting by The Wall Street Journal and Reuters

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