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
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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.
 


Erdogan and Putin vow closer cooperation on Syria at Moscow talks

Updated 23 January 2019
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Erdogan and Putin vow closer cooperation on Syria at Moscow talks

  • The two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict
  • Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday vowed to coordinate their actions more closely in Syria.
“Cooperation between Russia and Turkey is a touchstone for Syrian peace and stability,” Erdogan said in translated comments at a joint press conference after their talks, which lasted around three hours.
“With our Russian friends we intend to strengthen our coordination even more.”
“We agreed how we’ll coordinate our work in the near future,” Putin said, calling the talks which included the countries’ defense ministers “effective.”
At the start of their meeting in the Kremlin, Putin addressed Erdogan as “dear friend,” saying that their countries “work on issues of regional security and actively cooperate on Syria.”
Erdogan used the same term for Putin and said “our solidarity makes a weighty contribution to the security of the region.”
The two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict: Russia provides critical support to the Syrian government, while Turkey has backed rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Despite this, they have worked closely to find a political solution to the seven-year conflict.
Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria following US President Donald Trump’s shock announcement last month about pulling 2,000 American troops out of Syria.
Putin said that if carried out, the withdrawal of US troops from northeastern Syria “will be a positive step, it will help stabilize the situation in this restive area.”
Turkey has also welcomed Washington’s planned withdrawal, but the future of US-backed Kurdish militia forces labelled terrorists by Ankara has upset ties between the NATO allies.
Erdogan had said on Monday he would discuss with Putin the creation of a Turkish-controlled “security zone” in northern Syria, suggested by Trump.
The US-allied Kurds, who control much of the north, have rejected the idea, fearing a Turkish offensive against territory under their control.
Putin said Wednesday that Russia supports “establishing dialogue between Damascus officials and representatives of the Kurds.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week said that Damascus must take control of the north.
The northwestern province of Idlib earlier this month fell under the full control of a jihadist group dominated by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The Russian foreign ministry said earlier Wednesday that the situation in the province remained of “serious concern.”
Putin said that the leaders discussed the situation in Idlib “in great detail today.”
“We have a shared conviction that we must continue jointly fighting terrorists wherever they are, including in the Idlib zone,” the Russian leader said.
Erdogan said that the countries will wage a “lengthy fight” in Syria.
Nearly eight years into Syria’s deadly conflict, the planned US pullout has led to another key step in Assad’s Russian-backed drive to reassert control.
Kurdish forces who were left exposed by Trump’s pledge to withdraw have asked the Syrian regime for help to face a threatened Turkish offensive.
The Kremlin hailed the entry by Syrian forces into the key northern city of Manbij for the first time in six years after Kurds opened the gates.
Moscow plans to organize a three-way summit with Turkey and Iran early this year as part of the Astana peace process, launched by the three countries in 2017.
Putin said Wednesday the next summit would be held “in the near future” in Russia, saying the leaders still needed to agree the time and location with Iran.
The last meeting between Putin, Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani took place in Iran in September last year with the fate of rebel-held Idlib province dominating the agenda.
Ties between Russia and Turkey plunged to their lowest level in years in November 2015 when Turkish forces shot down a Russian warplane over Syria.
But after a reconciliation deal in 2016, relations have recovered at a remarkable speed with Putin and Erdogan cooperating closely over Syria, Turkey buying Russian-made air defense systems and Russia building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.