Lebanese couple sentenced to death for killing maid in Kuwait

The Lebanese couple who killed their Filipino maid in Kuwait were sentenced to death in absentia on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 02 April 2018

Lebanese couple sentenced to death for killing maid in Kuwait

DUBAI: A Kuwaiti criminal court has sentenced a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife to death by hanging for killing their Filipino maid on Sunday. 
The court issued the sentence in absentia in the first hearing in the case of Joanna Demafelis, the 29-year-old maid whose body was found in a freezer in Kuwait earlier this year, a judicial source said.
The Lebanese man admitted killing the maid a year ago in what became known as the Freezer Body case. Following that, the  General Attorney in Lebanon charged the man with killing his maid and putting her body in a freezer.
Lebanese authorities arrested the man last month and he was reffered to justuice authorities in Southern Lebanon because he is a resident of Saidon, a city in Southern Lebanon. The man's wife, a Syrian, is still at large.
​Philippine Ambassador Renato Pedro Villa declined to comment on the verdict, saying his country would await extradition of the couple.
The Lebanese-Syrian couple were arrested in February in the Syrian capital Damascus following an Interpol manhunt.
Syrian authorities handed the husband, Nader Essam Assaf, to Lebanese authorities, while his Syrian wife remained in custody in Damascus.
Philippines Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs, Sarah Arriola, was scheduled to hold talks on Sunday with officials in Kuwait on conditions for Filipino workers, including labor law violations.
The Demafelis murder triggered a diplomatic crisis between Kuwait and the Philippines, with Manila imposing a departure ban on citizens planning to work in the Gulf state.
An estimated 252,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait and send remittances to help their families at home.
In the wake of the Demafelis murder, Manila has been helping Filipino nationals who want to leave Kuwait, including those who have lost their residency status.
Villa told AFP on Sunday that his country has already repatriated 4,000 Filipino nationals living in Kuwait without the necessary paperwork.
“We are now in talks with Kuwaiti authorities to secure an amnesty that will allow 6,000 Filipinos living without papers to return,” he said.

Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Updated 21 May 2019

Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.