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Lebanese to be tried in Lebanon – Lebanese law does not allow extradition if found guilty
KUWAIT CITY, Feb 26: According to chilling details published in several media the Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) Joanna Demafelis was unconscious and not dead before she was stuffed into the freezer. Her employer, Lebanese Nader Essam Assaf is said to have confessed to the police that he put Demafelis in the freezer before she was dead.
He claimed, his Syrian born-wife Mona Hassoun, who is also the main suspect, got ‘addicted’ to torturing the Filipina. They were caught in Syria, but Assaf, since he is Lebanese, has been handed over to Beirut while his wife remains in custody of the police in Damascus.
A Lebanese judicial official said the couple left Kuwait and made a ‘very brief stopover’ in Lebanon before travelling to Syria where they were finally nabbed by Interpol upon a request from its Kuwait counterpart.
Philippines Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano called the arrests a “critical first step in our quest for justice for Joanna” and said he expects Kuwait to request the extradition of Assaf from Lebanon, to stand trial in Kuwait which has vowed to do everything possible to see justice is done.
“With the two suspects now in custody, (Philippine authorities) will follow President Duterte’s instructions to vigorously pursue justice for Demafelis,” Cayetano added. He said Duterte has vowed to bring justice to Demafelis’s family and lashed out at Kuwait alleging Arab employers routinely rape Filipina workers, force them to work 21 hours a day and feed them scraps.
According to reports, “Lebanon has asked Kuwait to pass on Essam’s police record.” A local Arabic daily, after Assaf made his initial statement, said there were many questions about his fate, whether his trial would take place in Lebanon or whether he will be extradited to Kuwait.
A Kuwaiti security source said the mechanism of receiving Assaf if he is found guilty requires a judicial letter to be sent through Interpol, under which the accused will appear before a Lebanese investigating judge, who will decide whether or not to extradite him to Kuwait.
However, a Lebanese judicial source stressed according to Lebanese law, if a Lebanese has committed a crime in a foreign country, Lebanon does not extradite him, but tries him or her on its territory. The source pointed out since the crime is committed in Kuwait and the suspect is in his homeland, he will be tried in Lebanon.
By Michele Fe Santiago Arab Times Staff and Agencies