American couple Matthew and Grace Huang fought the Qatari legal system for nearly two years over allegations that they starved their adopted daughter to death. Now cleared, they have begun their journey home to the United States.
The Huangs left Qatar on a plane Wednesday afternoon, three days after an appellate court cleared them in the January 2013 death of their 8-year-old daughter, family spokesman Eric Volz said on Twitter.
“Thank you to all the silent heroes on this one. Wheels are up,” tweeted Volz, who works with the international crisis resource group David House Agency, which helped with the Huangs’ court case in Qatar.
Volz, tweeting from the plane, also posted a picture of the couple aboard the aircraft.
An appeals judge in Qatar on Sunday cleared the Huangs of starving their adopted daughter to death in 2013 in a case that drew global attention to that country’s justice system.
Despite the ruling, the Huangs were blocked from leaving Qatar at Hamad International Airport by immigration officials who confiscated their passports, according to the Doha News agency, which cited 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 the Huangs 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 that 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.