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American Couple Cleared of Daughter's Death Exit Qatar

  • VOA News

American couple Grace, center, and Matthew Huang, right, walk to their departure gate with U.S. Ambassador to Qatar, Dana Shell Smith, left, at the Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, Dec. 3, 2014.

American couple Grace, center, and Matthew Huang, right, walk to their departure gate with U.S. Ambassador to Qatar, Dana Shell Smith, left, at the Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, Dec. 3, 2014.

Two Americans who had been suspected of responsibility for the death of an adopted daughter have left Qatar, after a last-minute ban on their departure was lifted.

The Americans, Matt and Grace Huang, from California, had been cleared of all charges by a Qatari court, but immigration officials refused to let them depart Sunday as originally scheduled. The U.S. ambassador to Qatar, Dana Shell Smith, said in a Twitter post Wednesday that "Matt and Grace Huang are wheels up from Qatar."

The ambassador had been involved in diplomatic efforts to persuade Qatari officials to respect the verdict of innocent that a court in Doha pronounced after a review of their case.

The Huangs were charged with murder and jailed after their 8-year-old daughter Gloria, adopted from an orphanage in Ghana, died in January 2013. They were convicted of a lesser charge and sentenced to three years in prison, but on appeal they presented evidence that the child died of natural causes.

The family, originally from Los Angeles, moved to Qatar where Matthew, an engineer, was working on an infrastructure project related to plans for the 2022 World Cup in the Gulf emirate.

The Huangs initially were accused of starving Gloria to death to sell her organs. They say Gloria died of medical problems complicated by her unusual dietary habits, which included both eating binges and self-starvation.

The couple, both of Asian descent, also have two other adopted children of African descent. Both adoption and multi-racial families are rare in Qatar, a conservative Arab state.

Qatar hosts an important American military air operations center outside the capital, Doha, that is being used to coordinate airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Some material for this report came from AP, AFP and Reuters.

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