Suspect in Joanna Demafelis murder arrested

MANILA, Philippines – The principal suspect in the murder of Joanna Demafelis, the 29-year-old overseas Filipino worker (OFW) found dead in a freezer in Kuwait, has been arrested.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed this in a press release Friday, February 23.

The arrested suspect is Nader Essam Assaf, a Lebanese national. Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said he has informed President Rodrigo Duterte about Assaf's arrest.

"The President welcomes the news that Nader Essam Assaf is now in the hands of authorities in Lebanon," Cayetano said.

"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 Philippines' top diplomat added. 

Assaf and his wife have been the subject of a manhunt by Interpol. 

His wife, Mona, is believed to be in Syria.

Cayetano said he expects Kuwait to request Assaf's extradition "so he could stand trial in Kuwait."

Demafelis' remains were brought back to the Philippines on February 16. 

Her death was among the incidents that President Rodrigo Duterte had cited in ordering a deployment ban to Kuwait. (READ: Duterte lashes out at Kuwait over mistreatment of Filipino workers)

The Department of Labor and Employment issued a total ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait on February 12. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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