Police Say Pakistani-Italian Woman Was Strangled; Family Members Arrested

Pakistani police say a 25-year-old woman who died under suspicious circumstances last month was strangled in a suspected “honor killing” case.

Police in the eastern city of Gujrat launched an investigation into the death of Sana Cheema -- an Italian national of Pakistani origin -- after suspicions were raised on social media that she might have been murdered by relatives in a so-called honor killing spread online.

Authorities exhumed the woman’s body on April 25 to perform an autopsy.

"It has now been confirmed that she was strangled to death. And according to the [forensic] report, her neck was also broken," Irfan Sulehri, a senior police officer in Gujrat, Punjab Province, said on May 9.

Cheema’s father, brother, and uncle have been arrested and are being investigated, police said.

Cheema’s family members claim she died in early April from an unspecified illness.

Police say Cheema’s father brought her back to Pakistan to marry her off to a relative. Italian media reports said Cheema was murdered because she wanted to marry a man in Italy against her family’s wishes. The family denies the claim.

Hundreds of women are killed every year in Pakistan in so-called honor killings by their own relatives for allegedly bringing shame on their families in the deeply conservative society.

If confirmed that her murder was a so-called honor killing, Cheema’s case will be the second such case recently publicized in Punjab.

In 2016, the father and the ex-husband of a British-Pakistani woman, Samia Shahid, were charged by Punjab police in connection with her rape and murder.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, geo.tv, and dawn.com