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Pakistan police say Italian woman was ‘strangled to death’

Pakistani police on Wednesday said an Italian woman who died under suspicious circumstances last month was strangled to death, in a case that made headlines in Italy over claims she was murdered in a so-called honour killing.

Pakistan police say Italian woman was 'strangled to death'
People in Pakistan protest against so-called honour killings in Islamabad, 2014. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP

Police in the eastern city of Gujrat launched an investigation into the death of Sana Cheema – a Brescia resident of Pakistani origin and believed to have been in her mid-twenties – after allegations she had been murdered by relatives spread online.

Her body was later exhumed and an autopsy performed, leading to the discovery she had been brutally assaulted.

“It has now been confirmed that she was strangled to death. And according to the report, her neck was also broken,” Irfan Sulehri, a senior police officer in Gujrat told AFP. A second police officer from Gujrat, Waqar Gujjar, confirmed the findings of the forensics report. 

“The accused persons are already in police custody,” Sulehri added.

Cheema's father, brother and uncle were taken into custody for questioning after the investigation was launched.

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According to family members, Cheema died in early April after succumbing to an unspecified illness.

Police said Cheema's father Ghulam Mustafa brought her back to Pakistan to get married.

According to the woman's family, this led to a confrontation with a nearby family who spurned the offer of a match. Because of the rejection Cheema refused to eat, fell ill and died, relatives told police.

However, reports in Italian newspapers alleged Cheema was murdered because she wanted to marry a man in Italy against her family's wishes.

Hundreds of women in Pakistan are killed by their relatives each year after allegedly bringing shame on their families in the deeply conservative Muslim country.

Under previous legislation the culprits – usually men – could escape punishment if pardoned by members of their own family. A new law removes the power to forgive culprits in such cases but critics contend some loopholes still exist. 

READ ALSO: At least 114 women were murdered in Italy last year


Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

CRIME

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

Prosecutors in New York on Tuesday returned dozens of antiquities stolen from Italy and valued at around $19 million, some of which were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

“These 58 pieces represent thousands of years of rich history, yet traffickers throughout Italy utilized looters to steal these items and to line their own pockets,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, noting that it was the third such repatriation in nine months.

“For far too long, they have sat in museums, homes, and galleries that had no rightful claim to their ownership,” he said at a ceremony attended by Italian diplomats and law enforcement officials.

The stolen items had been sold to Michael Steinhardt, one of the world’s leading collectors of ancient art, the DA’s office said, adding that he had been slapped with a “first-of-its-kind lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities.”

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Among the recovered treasures, which in some cases were sold to “unwitting collectors and museums,” were a marble head of the Greek goddess Athena from 200 B.C.E. and a drinking cup dating back to 470 B.C.E, officials said.

The pieces were stolen at the behest of four men who “all led highly lucrative criminal enterprises – often in competition with one another – where they would use local looters to raid archaeological sites throughout Italy, many of which were insufficiently guarded,” the DA’s office said.

One of them, Pasquale Camera, was “a regional crime boss who organized thefts from museums and churches as early as the 1960s. He then began purchasing stolen artifacts from local looters and sold them to antiquities dealers,” it added.

It said that this year alone, the DA’s office has “returned nearly 300 antiquities valued at over $66 million to 12 countries.”

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