Kuwaiti authorities preparing murder charges vs. suspects in Joanna Demafelis' death

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 25) — The case of slain domestic worker Joanna Demafelis is moving forward.

Speaking to CNN Philippines Sunday, Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa said murder charges are being prepared by the Kuwaiti government against Nader Essam Assaf and Mona Hassoun, Joanna's former employers. He said he learned of this development from a security official.

Villa said Kuwaiti officials would ask that both be extradited, but mentioned there could be laws preventing that.

"Sabi nung mga Kuwaiti authorities, they will ask for the extradition ng dalawa sa Kuwait. But, sabi rin nila malamang, of course baka may batas rin yung dalawang bansang iyon preventing yung extradition nila dito sa Kuwait for trial," he clarified.

[Translation: Kuwaiti authorities said they would ask for their extradition to Kuwait. But they also said that those two countries could have laws preventing their extradition to Kuwait for trial.]


However, Villa said the Philippines has embassies in Beirut and Damascus and those offices could probably help in that regard.

Villa added, "Aside from the prosecutor, we will hire perhaps a team of lawyers here to assist in the prosecution. Meron naman tayong legal assistance fund [We have a legal assistance fund]."

In Kuwait, a murder charge carries the death penalty. If proven true, it would mean death by hanging.

When asked if there were any developments regarding the request of the Demafelis family to get Joanna's things back, Villa said according to the security official he spoke with, no items belonging to Joanna have been recovered from where her body was found.

"Ang banggit ng official, maaring they disposed of all her things – kasi, di ba, they are covering up the crime? Isa ngang ginawa nila, kanilang inereport na nag-runaway raw si Joanna bago sila umalis dito noong November 2016," he said.

[Translation: The official said, they could have disposed of all her things – after all, aren't they covering up the crime? One of the things they did was report that Joanna ran away before they left in November 2016.]

Assam, a Lebanese national, was arrested last week and is now in the custody of Lebanese officials; while Hassoun, a Syrian national is with Syrian authorities.

READ: Suspect in Joanna Demafelis' murder in Lebanese custody

Both Assaf and Hossoun's arrests were confirmed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano in separate statements.

READ: Second suspect in Joanna Demafelis' murder now in Syrian custody

Both reportedly fled Kuwait in November 2016, after reporting Joanna ran away from them.

Joanna's body was found stuffed in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait a year later.

READ: Body of Filipina found in freezer in Kuwait

CNN Philippines Digital Producers Pia Garcia,  Amanda Lingao, and VJ Bacungan contributed to this report