Italy court jails parents for life over ‘honour killing’ of Pakistani teenon December 20, 2023 at 4:49 am

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The Pakistani couple were jailed for life for killing Saman Abbas, 18, over an arranged marriage.

File photo of a protest against gender violence in PakistanImage source, Getty Images

Italy has sentenced a Pakistani couple to life in prison for killing their 18-year-old daughter because she refused an arranged marriage.

Saman Abbas’s body was found beneath a farmhouse in northern Italy in November 2022, 18 months after she disappeared.

Her father Shabbar Abbas, was arrested in Pakistan in August and extradited to be tried for her murder.

His wife, Nazia Shaheen was sentenced in her absence. She is believed to be in hiding in Pakistan.

Saman Abbas’s so-called honour killing shocked Italy. Following her disappearance, the country’s union of Islamic communities issued a fatwa – a religious ruling – rejecting forced marriages.

Her parents were convicted and sentenced by a court in the northern city of Reggio Emilia on Tuesday.

Shabbar Abbas maintained his innocence before the court on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

“This trial is not complete. I too want to know who killed my daughter,” he told the court, the news agency said, citing Italian media.

An uncle, Danish Hasnain, was handed a 14-year jail term for his involvement in her murder. Hasnain was detained under a European arrest warrant in France in September 2021.

Saman Abbas had emigrated with her family from Pakistan to the farm town of Novellara as a teenager, according to several media reports.

There, she started dating a man of her choice. A photograph of her kissing her Pakistani boyfriend on a street in the regional capital, Bologna, reportedly drew the fury of her parents.

Italian investigators said the couple had wanted their daughter to travel to Pakistan for an arranged marriage in 2020, but she refused.

According to Italian media, she had lived under the protection of social services from October that year, but returned to the family home in Novellara in late April 2021, after which she went missing.

Prosecutors said she was tricked into returning home.

CCTV footage released by the police showed three of Saman Abbas’s family members walking with spades, a crowbar and a blue bag on 29 April 2021. The following day, separate footage shows the missing teenager leaving the house with her parents.

An autopsy later revealed that Saman Abbas suffered a broken neck bone, possibly as a result of being strangled.

The idea that a murder can be “honourable” is believed to have come from some tribal customs, where an allegation against a woman is perceived to bring dishonour to her family.

According to these customs, male family members of a woman who has interactions with unrelated men – however innocuous – should first kill the woman, then go after the man.

Human rights groups say the most common reasons for “honour killings” are when the victim refuses to enter into an arranged marriage or have been raped or sexually assaulted.

But killings can be carried out for more trivial reasons, like dressing in a way deemed inappropriate or displaying behaviour seen as disobedient.

In Pakistan, hundreds of women are killed in this way each year. A much smaller number of men are also murdered in such cases.

Last month, an 18-year-old woman in the remote Kohistan district was shot dead by her father and uncle on orders from tribal elders – because of a photo that showed her with a man.

The photo, which went viral, was later found to have been doctored. Her father has been arrested while her uncle is on the run.

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