Wife of main suspect in Joanna Demafelis slay now in Syrian custody: DFA

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2018 09:37 PM | Updated as of Feb 24 2018 11:38 PM

MANILA (2nd UPDATE)—The wife of the principal suspect in migrant worker Joanna Demafelis' death has been taken into custody by Syrian authorities, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Saturday. 

Mona Hassoun and her Lebanese husband, Nader Essam Assaf, are the principal suspects in the murder of Demafelis, 29, who had served as their house help.

The DFA on Friday announced that Assaf is in the custody of Lebanese authorities.

"Secretary (Alan Peter) Cayetano, at the same time, assured that with the two suspects now in custody, the DFA and the Department of Labor and Employment will follow President Duterte’s instructions to vigorously pursue justice for Demafelis," the statement read.

The couple have been the subject of an Interpol manhunt since Demafelis's body was found more than a year after her family reported her missing.

"The couple were arrested in Damascus. They were the subject of an Interpol red notice and the Syrian authorities handed the husband over to Lebanese custody on Friday morning," a Lebanese judicial official said Saturday.

The official added that after leaving Kuwait, the couple had made a very brief stopover in Lebanon before travelling on to neighboring Syria.

Demafelis' body was found in a freezer at an abandoned apartment in Kuwait earlier this month, more than a year since she went missing. Investigation found signs of torture and abuse. 

Demafelis' case is one of several OFW deaths that had prompted the Philippine government to enforce a ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait and demand better protection of its workers in the Gulf state. 

The government has also initiated a repatriation program for Kuwait-based Filipinos who sought to come home. 

More than 250,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, most of them domestic helpers, per DFA figures. —With reports from Agence France-Presse