ROME: The uncle of an 18-year-old girl who disappeared months ago in Italy after refusing an arranged marriage in Pakistan was detained late on Wednesday on the outskirts of Paris, according to Italian authorities who fear the teenager may be dead.
Saman Abbas was last seen in late April by neighbours in the vicinity of her family’s home in the farm town of Novellara, near the city of Reggio Emilia.
A few days later, a Milan airport video captured her parents, who had reportedly been pressuring Abbas to marry a man she had never met, hurrying to catch a flight to Pakistan.
Italian Prosecutor Isabella Chiesi told reporters that Paris police, acting on a European warrant issued in connection with the woman’s disappearance, detained the uncle in an apartment where he had been living with other people.
Italian police said his social media use played a part in investigators tracking him down.
“I contend it’s fundamental to have gotten the uncle, who, from all the investigations and checks, appears to be the mastermind of this crazy criminal plan,″ the Italian news agency LaPresse quoted the prosecutor as saying at a news conference in Reggio Emilia.
Chiesi didn’t elaborate on what the alleged plan entailed. She expressed hope that the uncle’s detention in France would lead to his transfer to Italy so he could be interrogated by Italian authorities.
Abbas told her boyfriend in Italy, who is also of Pakistan origin, that her parents wanted to marry her off to an older man in their homeland but that she was refusing. After going to authorities, Abbas was allowed to stay at a shelter but later returned home, reportedly after her family sent her text messages begging her to come back, Italian news reports said.
The young woman’s disappearance has gripped Italians for weeks. Police, aided by dogs, searched the farm fields of Novellara near the family’s home looking for Abbas’ body. Her younger brother told authorities that he had learned that the uncle had allegedly killed her sister, according to Italian media.
Three men were seen on a surveillance camera video carrying shovels, a pail and a sack near the family home in Italy about the time of her disappearance.
Italian authorities are also seeking the parents and a male cousin, while another cousin was detained in France earlier this year and then transferred to Italy. He is being held in jail for investigation of a suspected role in the case.