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Second suspect in Filipino maid’s murder is arrested in Syria

Jessica, centre, and Jojit Demafelis, left, siblings of Joanna Demafelis react as the wooden casket of her remains arrives at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. (AP)
MANILA: The second suspect in the murder of Filipino worker Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer in a Kuwait apartment, has been arrested in Syria, it was announced late Saturday night.
Mona Hassoun, wife of Nader Essam Assaf, a Lebanese who was Dermafelis’ employer, is now in the custody of authorities in Damascus, the Philippine foreign office has been told.
Hassoun’s arrest came a day after the announcement that Lebanese authorities already have custody of her husband.
Hassoun and Assaf were the principal suspects in the murder of 29-year-old Demafelis.
Citing a report from the Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa, Alan Cayetano of the Philippines foreign office said Hassoun was arrested with her husband in Syria where the two fled after leaving Kuwait last year.
Cayetano said Assaf was immediately turned over to Lebanese authorities.
The two were taken into custody after Kuwaiti authorities requested the assistance of Interpol in locating and arresting them.
With the arrest of the suspects, Cayetano assured that President Rodrigo Duterte’s instructions to vigorously pursue justice for Demafelis would be followed.
Kuwaiti authorities discovered the body of Demafelis, which showed signs of torture, stuffed in a freezer earlier this month. The apartment had been abandoned by her employers in 2016.
Demafelis’ death angered President Duterte, who ordered a ban on deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait.
During his visit to the wake of Demafelis in Sara, Iloilo, last Thursday, Duterte assured her family that he would seek justice for the slain worker but would leave the matter to the Kuwaiti authorities for now.
Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the president has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to summon the local recruiters of the murdered Filipino.