The key suspect in the murder of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Joanna Demafelis in Kuwait more than a year ago is now in the custody of authorities in Lebanon, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Friday.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said he has informed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte about the arrest of Nader Essam Assaf, a Lebanese national and one of the principal suspects in the brutal torture and murder of the 29-year-old domestic helper from Sara, a town in Iloilo province.

Cayetano said Duterte welcomed the news, adding “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 on Thursday, the same day Duterte visited the wake of Demafelis and assured her family that he would seek justice for her and other overseas Filipino workers being abused by their employers abroad.

Assaf and his wife, Mona, a Syrian national, 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 her family reported her missing.

Kuwaiti authorities said Interpol Lebanon had notified Interpol Kuwait that Assaf is now in custody but his wife is still at large and is believed to be in Syria.

Kuwaiti authorities requested the assistance of Interpol in locating and arresting the couple who they believed fled to Lebanon or Syria shortly after the torture and murder of Demafelis.

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

Duterte ordered a ban on the deployment of new Philippine workers to Kuwait in the wake of the discovery of Demafelis’s body.

Around 3,000 distressed OFWs in Kuwait have been repatriated to the Philippines from their employers in Kuwait. Thousands more are still waiting to be repatriated.

Source: NAM News Network