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Mon 4 Aug 2014 11:10 AM

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US urges Qatar to lift travel ban on Americans appealing murder charge

Couple currently appealing a three year jail sentence for allegedly causing their adopted daughter to starve to death

US urges Qatar to lift travel ban on Americans appealing murder charge
Matthew and Grace Huang were sentenced to three years’ in jail after eight-year-old Gloria, who was adopted from Ghana, died in January, 2013.

The US government has called on Qatar to lift a travel ban on an American couple currently appealing a three year jail sentence for allegedly causing their adopted daughter to starve to death.

In March, Matthew and Grace Huang were sentenced to three years’ in jail after eight-year-old Gloria, who was adopted from Ghana, died in January, 2013.

An autopsy found she had died of "cachexia (an irreversible loss of body mass) and dehydration", while the prosecutor charged the couple with "murder with intent by forced starvation".

Late last week, family representatives met with US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson regarding the ongoing legal proceedings in Qatar.

In a statement the US 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 and the rest of their family.”

The couple, whose other adopted children have been allowed to return to the US, are on bail while their appeal is being heard.

They argue that their daughter Gloria suffered an eating disorder related to her trauma while living in a refugee camp in Africa and that the Qatari authorities had failed to acknowledge this. Witnesses testified that Gloria was smiling and walking before she died.

During the opening session, the Qatari prosecutor said the pair needed to be made an example of and should not be on bail during the appeal.

He also revealed he was considering reviving human trafficking charges, based on the court’s conclusion "that the murder may have been done in order to harvest her organs or to conduct medical experiments on her".

The case has raised concern in the US, including in Washington and among rights activists.

Following the initial verdict, the US State Department said Washington was concerned by "indications that not all of the evidence was being weighed by the court and that cultural misunderstandings may have been leading to an unfair trial".

The couple spent nearly a year in prison before being released but are not allowed to leave Qatar.

They had moved to the Gulf state in 2012 when Matthew Huang, an engineer, took a job overseeing a major infrastructure project related to Qatar’s World Cup in 2022.

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