Suspect in killing of Filipina maid interrogated in Lebanon

Suspect in killing of Filipina maid interrogated in Lebanon
2 min read
24 February, 2018
Lebanese officials say authorities in Beirut are interrogating a man who is suspected in the death of a Filipina maid whose body was found stuffed in a freezer in Kuwait.
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Lebanese security and judicial officials say authorities in Beirut are interrogating a man who is suspected in the death of a Filipina maid whose body was found stuffed in a freezer in Kuwait.

A senior official with Lebanon’s General Security Directorate refused to provide details other than that the man is being held by the agency and undergoing questioning.

A judicial official said on Saturday Lebanese citizen Nader Essam Assaf was handed over by Syrian authorities to Lebanon Friday. He added that the man’s Syrian wife is in Syria.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief reporters.

Assaf and his wife are suspects in the death of Joanna Demafelis.

On Friday, the Philippine foreign secretary said the suspect is under arrest in Lebanon.

News of the story sparked outrage in the Philippines and shed further light on the conditions of Filipina maids and other foreign workers in the Gulf states and elsewhere.

Following the news, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte announced a "total ban" on Filipinos taking up new work in Kuwait – a move that heightened diplomatic tensions between the two countries.

After Duterte attended Defamelis' funeral in her hometown of Sara in central Philippines, the leader said the ban could be extended to more countries.

Duterte also lashed out at Kuwait, alleging employers routinely raped their Filipina workers and fed them scraps. "Is there something wrong with your culture? Is there something wrong with your values?" he asked.

Kuwait's foreign minister responded by condemning what they called Manila's "escalation".

The Philipines is a major labour exporter – more than 10 per cent of its 100 million are working abroad. The remittances they send home has propped up the country's economy for decades.

Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have documented widespread abuses against Filipino workers in Kuwait.

Kuwait's employee sponsorship system, called kafala, prevents migrant workers from switching jobs without the permission of their employers.

Every Gulf country uses the kafala system.