A court in Kuwait sentenced on Sunday a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife in absentia to death by hanging over the murder of a Filipina maid, triggering a diplomatic crisis between the Middle Eastern country and the Philippines.
After the discovery of 29-year-old Joanna Demafelis’ body was found in a freezer in February, President Rodrigo Duterte promised to “sell his soul to the devil” to bring home workers being abused in Kuwait, CNN reported.
The Philippine government offered more than 10,000 Filipinos flights home after overstaying their visas, and banned potential workers from being deployed to Kuwait.
Demafelis’ employers — Nader Essam Assaf and his wife Mona Hassoun — reportedly fled to Syria.
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Assaf, originally from Lebanon, was detained by Syrian authorities and handed over to the authorities in his home country, while his wife remained in custody in Damascus following an Interpol manhunt, according to Al Jazeera.
The couple, who were arrested in February and later found guilty in March, can appeal the death sentence under Kuwaiti law.
More than 250,000 Filipinos live in Kuwait, with at least 60% being domestic workers who live in their employers’ homes to work and earn money for their families back in the Philippines.
Demafelis, who only spoke to her family three times a year, planned to travel back home in 2018. But after losing contact with them in May 2016, she was reported missing, her sister told CNN Philippines.
Investigators tried to contact Demafelis through the Kuwaiti agency that recruited her, but it turns out that it had shut down.
Featured Image Joanna Demafelis/Facebook via CNN