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Suspects in Kuwait murder of Filipino found in freezer held

Suspects in Kuwait murder of Filipino found in freezer held

The discovery of Joanna Daniela Demaflis’ body earlier this month led to a government-imposed work ban

The main suspects in the murder of a Filipino housemaid whose body was found in the freezer of a Kuwait apartment have been arrested, according to reports.

The discovery of Joanna Daniela Demaflis’ body earlier this month caused outrage in the Philippines and led the government to enact a total ban on its workers travelling to Kuwait.

Read: Philippines enacts ‘total ban’ on citizens working in Kuwait

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte held up pictures of Demafelis’ bruised body during a February 9 press conference where he promised free flights home for abused workers in the Gulf country.

“What are you doing to my countrymen? And if I were to do it to your citizens here, would you be happy?,” he was quoted as saying.

AFP reports that Syrian authorities arrested Demafelis’ employers, the previous tenants of the abandoned apartment where the body was found, after an Interpol red notice was issued.

Nader Essam Assaf was surrendered to Beirut on Friday as he is a Lebanese citizen, while his Syrian wife Mona Assaf remains in custody in Damascus, a Lebanese judicial official said. After leaving Kuwait the two had briefly stopped in Lebanon before travelling to Damascus.

“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,” the official was quoted as saying.

Demafelis’ disappearance was reported to have taken place around the time the couple left Kuwait in November 2016. The 29-year-old’s body is said to have remained in the freezer from then until its discovery this month.

Philippine foreign affairs secretary Alan Cayetano said authorities would “vigorously pursue justice for Demafelis” as Duterte sas instructed.

Last month, the Philippine premier highlighted the suicides of four Filipino housemaids in Kuwait amid wider scrutiny of the treatment of his countrymen and women in the Middle East, where more than two million are employed.

Read: Philippines’ Duterte threatens Middle East work ban

A delegation from the Philippines began a Gulf tour last week, with stops in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar planned, to demand workers are offered basic protections like being able to keep passports and mobile phones.

Read: Philippines delegation to visit Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi to demand worker protection

Duterte has also been invited to visit Kuwait next month as the two countries seek to resolve labour issues by signing an agreement regulating the employment conditions of Filipino workers.

Read: Philippines’ Duterte to visit Kuwait amid labour abuse controversy

There are an estimated to be more than 250,000 Filipinos working in the country.

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