THE principal suspect in the murder of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Joanna Demafelis in Kuwait will not be extradited to the Gulf State to stand trial, Malacañang said on Thursday.
In a video interview with reporters in Malacañang, Palace Spokesman Harry Roque said that the prosecution of the suspects behind Demafelis’ killing was among the issues discussed during the meeting between the top officials of the Philippines and Kuwaiti government in the Gulf state on Tuesday.
“We had a long discussion Na-apprehend na raw yung Lebanese yung lalaki (The Lebanese suspect was apprehended) and the Lebanese authorities will try him in Lebanon,” Roque said.
“They will not extradite him to (Kuwait) but there will be a trial in Lebanon and it would be participated in by Kuwait authorities as well as Philippine authorities,” he added.
Demafelis’ employers, Nader Essam Assaf, a Lebanese national, and his wife, Mona, a Syrian national, were identified as the principal suspects in the torture and murder of the 29-year-old domestic helper.
Assaf was arrested in Syria and later turned over to Lebanese authorities.
Roque assured the public that the Philippine authorities would closely monitor the case.
He added that even the Kuwaiti government wanted Filipinos to understand that “everyone in Kuwait was equally shocked by the incident on Joanna Demafelis.”
“It was not as if hindi sila nabahala (they’re not concerned). It was headline news also in Kuwait and they could understand humanity,” Roque said.
Assaf and his wife have been the subject of an Interpol manhunt after Kuwaiti authorities discovered in early April the battered body of Demafelis inside a freezer in the couple’s abandoned apartment unit.
An autopsy report showed Demafelis was severely beaten before being placed in the freezer more than a year ago.
This prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to implement a total ban on the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait. He also ordered the repatriation of Filipino workers who wanted to come home.
Before the ban, deployment was suspended amid reports of abuses, with some resulting in death.