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Mon 1 Dec 2014 10:42 AM

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Kerry calls for US couple in Qatar to be released

Matthew and Grace Huang had their convictions for murdering their adopted daughter overturned by a Doha court on Sunday

Kerry calls for US couple in Qatar to be released
"The thoroughly documented findings of the court clearly establish the Huangs innocence," Kerry said. (Getty Images)

US Secretary of State John Kerry has issued a
statement saying he was "deeply concerned" that a Los Angeles couple,
who were sentenced to three years in jail in Qatar for the death of their
adopted African-born daughter, have been refused permission to leave the
country and he called on Doha officials to immediately allow the couple to
return home to the US.

An appeals court in Qatar on Sunday overturned the
convictions of Matthew and Grace Huang, but the government was refusing to let
the couple leave the country, a spokesman for the family said.

The Huangs were trying to return to the United States
after the tribunal found the lower court had made numerous errors, family
spokesman Eric Volz told Reuters. But as soon as they arrived at the airport in
Doha, their passports were seized and they were told a new arrest warrant had
been issued for them, Volz said.

“This is sort of a spiteful move," Volz
said.

Kerry issued a statement saying he was "deeply
concerned" about "new delays that have prevented their
departure," and called on Qatari officials to immediately allow the couple
to return to the United States.

“The thoroughly documented findings of the
court clearly establish the Huangs' innocence," Kerry said. "The 22
long months of court proceedings following their daughter's tragic death have
compounded the tragedy for the Huang family, and it is time now, as the Appeals
Court stated, to let the Huangs return home."

It is not known what new charges have been issued
against the Huangs. A spokesperson said the couple were still at Doha airport
with the US ambassador to Qatar, Doha News reported.

“(The Huangs) are scared they are going back to
jail,” a spokesperson was quoted as saying.

A representative of the Qatari government could not
be reached immediately, Reuters said.

The Huangs were arrested in January 2013 after
their 8-year-old daughter, Gloria, died unexpectedly.

An autopsy found that the girl had died of
"cachexia and dehydration," and a prosecutor charged the couple with
"murder with intent by forced starvation." Cachexia is an
irreversible loss of body mass. They were convicted in April.

The couple argued that Gloria had been suffering
from malnutrition-related diseases since they adopted her from Ghana at the age
of four, and that the Qatari authorities had failed to acknowledge this.

A website created to publicize the case
(freemattandgrace.com) said Matthew Huang, a Stanford University-trained
engineer, had moved to Qatar with his wife and their three young children in
2012 to help oversee a infrastructure project related to the 2022 soccer World
Cup.

Gloria died on January 15, 2013, and Qatari police
charged the couple the next day. The family's two other adopted children were
placed in an orphanage initially, but have since returned to the United States.

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