The U.S. government has called on Qatar to lift a travel ban on an American couple currently appealing their 3 year sentences for allegedly causing the death of their adopted daughter by starvation.  A few months ago, Matthew and Grace Huang were sentenced to 3 years in jail after 8-year-old Gloria, who they adopted from Ghana, died in January of 2013.

An autopsy revealed that she died from “cachexia [an irreversible loss of body mass] and dehydration”.  Prosecutors contend that the couple committed “murder with intent by forced starvation.”  The Huang’s contend that Gloria, whom they adopted from a refugee camp, suffered trauma from her experience.  This trauma caused her to suffer from an eating disorder.  Multiple witnesses testified that Gloria was never abused and that she was smiling and walking before she died.

Last week, the family met with U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson regarding their ongoing legal proceedings.  In a statement, the U.S. State Department said:

“Under Secretary Sherman conveyed concern for the Huang family’s well-being, adding that assisting US citizens in need overseas was among the Department’s highest priorities.  Senior US Government officials have raised the Huangs’ case with the Government of Qatar on multiple occasions, and the State Department will continue to engage Qatari officials at the highest levels. We seek the Qatari Government’s assistance in providing a fair and expeditious conclusion to the proceedings. We also urge the Qatari Government to lift the current travel ban and allow Mr. and Mrs. Huang to return home to the United States to be reunited with their two sons…”

The couple’s other children were allowed to return to the U.S., but they are not.

The Qatari prosecutor have said that the couple needs to be made an example of.  He has said he is considering human trafficking charges, “the murder may have been done in order to harvest her organs or to conduct medical experiments…”  The case has raised concerns in the U.S. and amongst rights activists.

Following the trial’s verdict, the U.S. State Department was concerned by “indications that not all of the evidence was being weighed…and that cultural misunderstandings may have [led]…to an unfair trial.”

The couple served a year in prison before being released on bail pending appeal.  The Huang’s moved to Qatar in 2012 when Matthew Huang took an engineering job overseeing an infrastructure project related to Qatar’s 2022 World Cup.

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