SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) Qatar has lifted a travel ban against a U.S. couple who were cleared in that Mideast nation in the death of their adopted daughter, meaning they are free to return home, the U.S. ambassador to Qatar said Tuesday.
An appeals judge in Qatar on Sunday cleared Matthew and Grace Huang of starving their adopted daughter to death in 2013 in a case that drew global attention to that country’s justice system.
The Huangs were blocked from leaving Qatar on Sunday at Hamad International Airport by immigration officials who confiscated their passports, according to the Doha News agency, citing family spokesman Eric Volz. Diplomatic sources said Monday the departure was delayed due only to legal procedures that take place once people have been cleared of a crime.
On Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Dana Smith said a travel ban against the couple was lifted following a motion that was filed Monday, and after talks between Smith and top Qatari officials.
The Huangs, who were living in Qatar while Matthew Huang worked for an international company that was constructing sites for the 2022 World Cup, were arrested in January 2013 when their 8-year-old daughter Gloria died.
They were charged with starving her to death, convicted in March and sentenced to three years in prison.
The Qatari prosecutor sought to paint Grace and Matthew Huang as inhumane — alleging they bought their adopted daughter cheaply from her poverty-stricken parents in Africa — and had threatened to seek human trafficking charges.
The couple spent nearly a year in prison before being freed in November 2013 to await proceedings surrounding an appeal that they filed.
Appellate Judge Abdulrahman al-Sharafi overturned the conviction on Sunday, citing weaknesses in forensic reports and saying the trial judge failed to properly consider testimony from witnesses who said Gloria wasn’t deprived.
A report by pathologists hired by the defense, obtained by CNN, stated they found no evidence that tissue samples were taken from Gloria’s body after her death, despite the fact Qatari investigators submitted an autopsy report.
Advocates for the Huangs suggested the lab report was fabricated and said their request with the Qatari judiciary for a formal investigation went unanswered.
After the couple’s arrest, their two sons, also adopted from Africa, were temporarily placed in a Qatari orphanage. They have since been sent back to the United States to live with Grace Huang’s mother.