Qatar court jails US couple 3 years for daughter death

Last Updated: Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 14:40

Doha: A Qatari court on Thursday condemned a US couple from Los Angeles to three years in prison for causing the death of their adopted eight-year-old daughter.

Matthew and Grace Huang were arrested in January 2013 after their daughter Gloria from Ghana died and accused of causing her death in order to sell her organs. 

The couple were also ordered to pay a fine of 15,000 riyals (4,100 dollars) each and will be deported after serving their sentence.

But reading the verdict, the judge did not specify the exact charges for which the Huangs were sentenced.

They have two weeks to appeal.

"We have just been wrongfully convicted and we feel as if we are being kidnapped by the Qatar judicial system," Matthew Huang said in a statement read to reporters outside the court.

"This verdict is wrong and appears to be nothing more than an effort to save face," he said.

"We are calling on United States President (Barack) Obama to call the head of state in Qatar and explain to him why American families adopt high-needs children," said Huang.

He said the ruling must be "overturned immediately and we should be allowed to go home."

The couple of Asian origin were released in November pending trial, but the court had denied their request to leave the country to join their other two adopted children in the United States.

The public prosecutor had pushed for the death penalty for the Huangs, who were not immediately re-arrested after the verdict.

Both adoption and multiracial families are rare in Qatar, a conservative Gulf Arab emirate.

The family`s supporters maintain Qatari authorities misunderstood the Huangs` situation and found it suspicious. 

The "Free Grace and Matt" website said police accuse the couple of having adopted the children "in order to harvest their organs, or perhaps to perform medical experiments on them."

Gloria, their daughter, had "an eating disorder, a legacy of her impoverished childhood in Ghana, in which she would sometimes fast, binge-eat or steal food," the website says.

The Huangs moved to Qatar in 2012 for Matthew, an engineer, to work on infrastructure projects linked to the 2022 football World Cup. 

Their supporters describe them as a loving family and say they have collected supporting testimony from people who knew them in Qatar, which authorities have declined to accept.

AFP

First Published: Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 14:40

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