An American couple sentenced to prison in Qatar for the death of their adopted daughter was cleared of wrongdoing by a Qatari court today, only to find out a few hours later that they are barred from leaving the country, in a bizarre case that has highlighted cultural differences between the U.S. and the Middle Eastern nation and caused U.S. authorities to try to intervene.
Matthew and Grace Huang were cleared of wrongdoing today by a Qatari appeals court, according to Fox News. However, when they tried to leave the country, their passports were confiscated and they were told that they are barred from leaving the country as the case continues to wind its way through the courts.
The American couple had been living in Qatar with their three children, all adopted from orphanages in Ghana, as Matthew worked for a construction company working on preparations for the 2022 World Cup, to be held in Qatar, according to the Huffington Post. In January 2013, the couple’s oldest daughter, Gloria, died at age 8.
An autopsy conducted by a Qatari doctor listed starvation and wasting disease at the cause of Gloria’s death. Prosecutors alleged that she was deliberately starved, and was at times locked in her room.
The Huangs argued that Gloria suffered from eating issues brought on by having grown up impoverished in an orphanage. The young girl would often starve herself deliberately for days at a time, and at times binge eat – often stealing food from garbage cans or begging from strangers. However, these behaviors are typical of children from impoverished backgrounds, according to an expert hired by the American couple’s defense team, and the Huangs were trying to manage and control Gloria’s eating.
Qatari officials also had a difficult time understanding why an Asian couple would adopt African children. A Qatari police report raised questions about why the Huangs adopted children who didn’t share their “hereditary traits,” and suggested that the children were part of a human trafficking or organ harvesting operation.
The U.S. State Department has tried to intervene in the American couple’s case, sending U.S. Ambassador Dana Shell Smith to work with them as their case is adjudicated.
Meanwhile, Matthew Huang has been fired from his job, and the family has been living on donations from friends and family in the U.S. Their other two adopted children were, for a while, placed in a Qatari orphanage before being allowed to travel to the U.S. to live with the Huangs’ family.
As of this post, it is not clear when the American couple will have their next appearance in a Qatari court.
[Image courtesy of: Fox News]