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Qatar Lifts Travel Ban on American Couple

  • VOA News

FILE - Grace and Matthew Huang wait to meet with U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith in Doha, Oct. 19, 2014.

FILE - Grace and Matthew Huang wait to meet with U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith in Doha, Oct. 19, 2014.

Qatar has lifted a travel ban against an American couple who were prevented from leaving the Persian Gulf state, despite being acquitted of charges in the death of their adopted daughter.

The U.S. ambassador to Qatar, Dana Shell Smith, said Tuesday in a post on Twitter that the couple will be allowed to leave Qatar Wednesday. Smith said all requirements have been met to clear the way for their departure.

Smith worked with Qatari officials to let Matthew and Grace Huang leave the country.

On Sunday, a Doha court overturned an earlier ruling against the Huangs, who were originally jailed on murder charges after the January 2013 death of their 8-year-old daughter Gloria, adopted from an orphanage in Ghana.

The court said the couple were free to leave the country. But hours later, Qatari immigration officials blocked them from boarding a flight at the Doha airport and confiscated their passports.

A family representative said they were told that a new arrest warrant had been issued for them.

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

The Huangs, who are of Asian descent, initially were accused of starving Gloria to death to sell her organs, but later were jailed for three years on parental neglect charges. The public prosecutor pushed for the death penalty for the Huangs, who also have two other children of African descent.

The Huangs were allowed to remain free pending their appeal, but could not leave the oil- and gas-rich nation.

The couple say Gloria died of medical problems complicated by unusual eating habits that included periods of bingeing and self-starvation.

Adoption and multi-racial families are rare in Qatar, a conservative Gulf Arab emirate.

Qatar hosts an important American military air operations center at an air base outside the capital, Doha, that is being used as part of airstrikes against the Islamic State group.

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