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L.A. couple, cleared in daughter's death after legal saga, leave Qatar

Matthew and Grace Huang spent nearly two years fighting criminal charges following the death of their daughter

Three days after a Qatari appeals court cleared them of wrongdoing in the death of their daughter, a Los Angeles couple on Wednesday left the Persian Gulf state and headed home, the U.S. ambassador said.

Matthew and Grace Huang had spent nearly two years fighting criminal charges following the January 2013 death of 8-year-old Gloria, whom they adopted from Africa.

“Matt and Grace Huang are wheels up from Qatar,” U.S. envoy Dana Shell Smith wrote on Twitter. “Emotional. These are the moments all diplomats live for.”

The closely watched case had drawn high-level expressions of concern from the Obama administration, with Secretary of State John F. Kerry appealing directly to the Qatar government to let the couple leave after they were exonerated.

The ambassador herself had escorted them to the airport on Sunday, hours after the court ruling, but they were turned back at passport control, and their supporters feared authorities might be preparing new charges against them.

But on Tuesday evening, the U.S. Embassy said it had been notified by Qatari authorities that no further legal action was pending and that the Huangs had been cleared to travel.

They will be reunited with their two other young children, also born in Africa, who were returned earlier to the United States. The Huangs spent nearly a year in jail before being handed a three-year prison term last year. They were released on their own recognizance during the appeals process, but not permitted to leave Qatar.

The couple appealed their convictions, and Sunday’s ruling marked a reversal that was unusual in Qatar’s justice system.

The case illustrated deep cultural differences between the West and Qatar, where interracial adoption is virtually unheard of.

Qatari authorities, disbelieving the Huangs’ motives for adopting Gloria and their other children, accused the couple of possible attempts at human trafficking or organ-selling. The Huangs maintained their innocence and presented evidence that Gloria had suffered from an eating disorder stemming from her impoverished early childhood in Ghana.

Matthew Huang, an engineer, had brought the family to Qatar after he was hired by a private company to work on infrastructure projects tied to the Gulf state’s planned hosting of the 2022 World Cup.

Follow @laurakingLAT for news from the Middle East

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

6:12 a.m.: This post has been updated with additional information about the case.

This post was originally published at 5:49 a.m.

 

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