Lebanese couple sentenced to death for murder of Filipino maid
A Kuwaiti court on Sunday sentenced a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife to death by hanging for the murder of a Filipino maid.
The court issued the sentence in absentia in the first hearing in the case of Joanna Demafelis, the 29-year-old maid whose body was found in a freezer in Kuwait earlier this year, a judicial source said.
The sentence can be appealed if the couple returns to Kuwait, the source said.
Philippines Ambassador Renato Pedro Villa declined to comment on the verdict, saying his country would await extradition of the couple.
The Lebanese-Syrian couple were arrested in February in the Syrian capital Damascus following an Interpol manhunt.
Syrian authorities handed the husband, Nader Essam Assaf, to Lebanese authorities, while his Syrian wife remained in custody in Damascus.
Philippines Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs, Sarah Arriola, was scheduled to hold talks on Sunday with officials in Kuwait on conditions for Filipino workers, including labor law violations.
The Demafelis murder triggered a diplomatic crisis between Kuwait and the Philippines, with Manila imposing a departure ban on citizens planning to work in the Gulf state.
An estimated 252,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait and send remittances to help their families at home.
In the wake of the Demafelis murder, Manila has been helping Filipino nationals who want to leave Kuwait, including those who have lost their residency status.
Villa told AFP on Sunday that his country has already repatriated 4,000 Filipino nationals living in Kuwait without the necessary paperwork.
“We are now in talks with Kuwaiti authorities to secure an amnesty that will allow 6,000 Filipinos living without papers to return,” he said.
The sister of Filipino maid Joanna Demafelis cries in front of a wooden casket containing the murdered woman’s body after its arrival at Manila airport. (File/AFP)