U.S. couple leaves Qatar after convictions overturned in child death

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 03, 2014 12:31 PM

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A U.S. couple whose convictions were overturned in the death of their adopted daughter in Qatar left the Gulf Arab state on Wednesday after a travel ban that had kept them in the country was lifted, their supporters and the U.S. ambassador to Qatar said.

Matthew and Grace Huang boarded a flight at the airport in Doha and are bound for their home in Los Angeles, said a statement on the website of the California Innocence Project, an organization that works to win the release of wrongfully convicted inmates.

"I am thrilled to announce that the Huangs are leaving Qatar after having the travel ban lifted," its director, Justin Brooks, said in a statement.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that Qatari officials indicated they would lift a travel ban against the Huangs on Wednesday, and he applauded the decision.

The couple was initially charged with murder in the death of their African-born daughter, Gloria, and were convicted of lesser child endangerment charges earlier this year in connection with the 8-year-old girl's death, according to a support website for the family.

An appeals court threw out the convictions on Sunday. Yet when the couple subsequently sought to leave Qatar, they were stopped at the Doha airport and their passports were seized, family spokesman Eric Volz said earlier this week.

After a flurry of diplomacy on behalf of the Huangs, U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith said on Twitter on Wednesday that their flight had left the country.

"Matt and Grace Huang are wheels up from Qatar," she said in the post.

The Huangs were arrested in January 2013 after an autopsy found their daughter died of dehydration and cachexia, an irreversible loss of body mass. The couple said Gloria suffered from malnutrition-related diseases since they adopted her from Ghana at age 4.

Their two other children, also adopted, have been living in the United States with family while the case continued in Qatar.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham)