Primary suspect in Demafelis murder in Lebanese custody – DFA

February 24, 2018 - 6:58 AM
President Rodrigo Duterte at the wake for murdered OFW Joanna Demafelis at her home in Sara, Iloilo with her parents Crisanto and Ana. (Richard Madelo, Presidential photos)

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs said Friday night that one of the principal suspects in the murder of overseas Filipino worker Joanna Demafelis in Kuwait is now in the custody of authorities in Lebanon.

Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said he has informed President Rodrigo Duterte about the arrest of Lebanese Nader Essam Assaf, who with his Syrian wife, Mona, are the principal suspects in the torture and murder of the 29-year-old domestic helper from Sara, Iloilo.

“The President welcomes the news that Nader Essam Assaf is now in the hands of authorities in Lebanon,” Cayetano said in a statement. “Assaf’s arrest is a critical first step in our quest for justice for Joanna and we are thankful to our friends in Kuwait and Lebanon for their assistance.”

The Philippine embassy in Kuwait reported the arrest of Assaf to Manila the same day Duterte visited the wake of Demafelis and assured her family the government will seek justice for her and other OFWs abused by their employers abroad.

The DFA said Assaf and his wife have been the subject of an Interpol manhunt after Kuwaiti authorities discovered early this month the battered body of Demafelis inside a freezer in the couple’s abandoned apartment unit more than a year after the OFW’s family reported her missing.

The arrest of Assaf came several days after Cayetano was assured by Kuwaiti Ambassador Mousaed Al-Thwaikh that Kuwaiti authorities will do everything they can to find the suspects and bring them to justice.

Cayetano said he expects Kuwaiti authorities to request the extradition of Assaf so he could stand trial in Kuwait.