Second suspect in Joanna Demafelis' murder now in Syrian custody

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 24) — Both principal suspects in the murder of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Joanna Demafelis are now in custody of authorities in the Middle East.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Saturday Mona Hassoun, the second suspect in Demafelis' death is now with authorities in Syria.

“We have just been informed by the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait that Mona Hassoun, wife of Nader Essam Assaf, who are the principal suspects in the murder of our kababayan Joanna Demafelis, is now in custody of authorities in Damascus,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano said in a press release.

The announcement comes just one day after DFA said Hassoun's husband, Assaf, was in Lebanese custody.

READ: Suspect in Joanna Demafelis' murder in Lebanese custody

The two have been tagged in the death of 29-year-old Demafelis, whose body was found inside a freezer in an apartment in Kuwait.

Citing an initial report from Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa, Cayetano said the couple were caught in Syria, where they fled after leaving Kuwait in 2017.

Cayetano said they were taken into custody after Kuwaiti authorities asked Interpol to help locate and arrest the two. Assaf, a Lebanese national, was turned over to Lebanese authorities

Speaking to CNN Philippines, Villa had earlier said Assaf's mother claimed it was Hassoun who was hurting Demafelis. He said the suspects face death by hanging in Kuwait if proven guilty of killing Demafelis.

Demafelis flew to Kuwait in 2014 to work as a domestic worker.

Her death has prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to order the repatriation of distressed OFWs from Kuwait. The government has also banned the deployment of new-hires to the Arab country.

READ: DOLE orders total ban on deployment of OFWs to Kuwait

Following the two suspects' arrests, Cayetano said the DFA and the Department of Labor and Employment will follow Duterte’s directive and "vigorously pursue justice" for Demafelis.

READ: Joanna Demafelis' family hopes to get her belongings back