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.

US accuses Iran of destabilizing Mideast with missile program

Updated 20 March 2019

US accuses Iran of destabilizing Mideast with missile program

  • Cites Iran’s support to the Houthi movement in Yemen and to Hezbollah in Lebanon
  • Says Iran's ballistic missile test and satellite launches violated UN Security Council resolution

JEDDAH: Iran’s missile program is destabilizing the Middle East, and Tehran risks starting a regional arms race by supplying weapons to armed groups in Lebanon and Yemen, a senior US arms control official said on Tuesday.

“Iran must immediately cease activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and halt the proliferation of missiles and missile technology to terror groups and other non-state actors,” Yleem Poblete, assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance, said in a speech to the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Iran’s missile program is a key contributor to increased tensions and destabilization in the region, increasing the risk of a regional arms race,” she said, denouncing Iran’s support to the Houthi movement in Yemen and to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

She said Iran had provided ballistic missiles to the Houthis that were fired into Saudi Arabia and unmanned aerial systems to Houthi groups that enable strikes against land-based targets in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. “We are committed to aggressively countering Iran’s regional proliferation of ballistic missiles and its unlawful arms transfers,” she said.

US President Donald Trump said when he quit the 2015 deal that lifted international sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear activities that the agreement failed to rein in Iran’s missile program or curb its regional meddling.

The US has accused Iran of defying a UN Security Council resolution by carrying out a ballistic missile test and two satellite launches since December.

Poblete urged “all responsible countries” to enforce UN Security Council resolutions restricting the transfer of missile-related technologies to Iran. She also accused Iran of “pursuing pharmaceutical-based agents for offensive purposes,” but did not provide details.

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Dr. Majid Rafizadeh said Iran had the largest ballistic program in the Middle East. “Through its ballistic missile program, the Iranian regime appears determined to escalate tensions in the region and seek every opportunity to project its power in order to reassert its hegemony,” he said. “The international community ought to hold Tehran accountable for its military adventurism and violations of international standards.”