Pakistani Parents Receive Life Sentence in Italy for Daughter’s Murder

In a harrowing case that has captured international attention, a Pakistani couple has been sentenced to life imprisonment by an Italian court for the murder of their daughter, Saman Abbas, who bravely refused an arranged marriage. The 18-year-old was living in Novellara, near Bologna, Italy when she vanished in May 2021 after rejecting her family’s insistence that she marry a cousin in Pakistan.

The tribunal in Reggio Emilia, central Italy, found that the parents orchestrated the murder, with an uncle, Danish Hasnain, carrying out the act by strangling his niece. The uncle received a 14-year sentence after entering a plea bargain, while two cousins were acquitted in a case that has shocked both Italy and Pakistan.

Abbas had previously reported her parents to the authorities, leading to her placement in a shelter in November 2020. She returned to her family home in April 2021 to retrieve her passport, intending to start anew with her boyfriend, who was also disapproved of by her family. Shortly thereafter, she disappeared. Police, alerted by the boyfriend, conducted a raid on the family home in May, but the parents had already fled to Pakistan.

Surveillance footage from the night of April 30 to May 1 suggests the young woman’s likely time of death, showing five individuals leaving the family residence with digging tools and returning later without them. A year after her disappearance, Abbas’s remains were discovered in an abandoned farmhouse, her neck broken.

Her brother’s testimony to the police revealed that he had overheard his father discussing the murder, implicating the uncle as the perpetrator. Shabbar Abbas, the father, was apprehended in Pakistan and extradited to Italy in August 2023. While the uncle and cousins faced trial in Italy, the mother, Nazia Shaheen, remains a fugitive, evading justice for her role in the crime.

This tragic incident has reignited discussions on the practice of honor killings and the urgent need for societal change. The Pakistani community in Italy and around the world has been left to grapple with the implications of this case, calling for an end to such heinous acts and for the protection of individual rights and freedoms.

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