The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has released an update regarding the decision of the Syrian District Criminal Court that found Syrian national, Mouna Ali Hassoun guilty of the murder of the Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) Joanna Demafelis last year.
It can be recalled that Demafelis’ body was found stuffed inside a freezer in February 2018 in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait.
Syrian Employer Accused Guilty by Court in Filipina Murder Case
According to the court, this is the second conviction handed on employers Mouna Ali Hassoun and her husband, Nader Essam Assaf. The first decision was made in April 2018, when the Philippines was informed of the decision of a Kuwaiti court that sentenced both to death by hanging, as shared in a report by the Philippine Star.
Hassoun, a Syrian national, was arrested in Syria since last year. Meanwhile, her Lebanese husband, Assaf, was also charged with murder in his home country.
The Demafelis murder case sparked a diplomatic crisis between Kuwait and the Philippines and even prompted Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to ban the deployment of migrant workers to the Gulf state for a few months.
In line with this, the Philippines also protested to Kuwait the abuses and maltreatment, labor violations, and the failure of Kuwaiti authorities to provide protection to Filipino nationals.
Despite the absence of the couple in Kuwait following the clamor that surrounded the murder case, the suspects were given the death sentence in absentia by the Kuwaiti court earlier last year.
Hassoun and Hassaf were identified as responsible for the killing of Demafelis, then a 29-year-old native of Iloilo who started working as a domestic helper in 2014. Her body was discovered by authorities inside the couple’s abandoned apartment early last year.
The two were later reported arrested in Lebanon and Syria, respectively.
Although the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait shared that Kuwaiti authorities have already requested the extradition of Assaf, it was possible that Lebanese authorities may decide not to turn him over and would try the case in Beirut instead.
In line with this, the Philippine embassy and the DFA have launched “rapid rescue missions” in the Gulf country, a move that offended and angered Kuwait as these reportedly violated the host country’s sovereignty and the norms prescribed by the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Back in April last year, then acting DFA Assistant Secretary for public diplomacy Elmer Cato uploaded videos of the rescue activities on the DFA reporters’ Viber group.
The rescue video which rapidly became hot international news received strong condemnation from the Kuwaiti government and resulted in the expulsion of former Philippine ambassador Renato Pedro Villa.