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Father, Uncle Charged In Suspected 'Honor Killing' Of Pakistani-Italian Woman

Pakistani police have arrested the father and uncle of a Pakistani-Italian woman on suspicion they killed her because she refused to marry the man they chose for her.

The two men were charged late on April 24 with killing Sana Cheema, 25, while she was visiting family in the neighborhood of Mangowal in the city of Gujrat in eastern Punjab Province, police said.

Police said they are still searching for the woman's brother, who they suspect of also playing a role in the murder. Police said her father and uncle claim she died of a heart attack brought on by "excessive drinking in Italy."

Nearly 1,000 women are killed by relatives every year in Pakistan in so-called "honor killings" for violating conservative Pakistani traditions on love, marriage, and public behavior.

The Italian Foreign Ministry said it was following the case through its embassy in Islamabad and has offered its assistance.

Pakistani police say Cheema died on April 18 under mysterious circumstances. Her body is expected to be exhumed on April 25 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.

Members of the Pakistani community in Brescia, Italy, rallied there over the weekend, demanding that authorities investigate to find out what happened to her.

Cheema graduated from high school in Brescia and received Italian citizenship in September. She briefly operated an agency that handled paperwork for driver's licenses. She returned to Pakistan for a visit in November, the news agency ANSA reported.

Police said Cheema's family took her to a hospital two times earlier this month and that police are trying to get details from 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 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 rape and murder.

The trial in Shahid's case is still under way, but her father died last year, leaving only her ex-husband to face the charges.

With reporting by AP and dpa
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