Los Angeles couple get three years in jail in Qatar for death of adopted child

Fri Mar 28, 2014 4:24pm EDT
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DOHA (Reuters) - A Los Angeles couple was sentenced to three years in jail in Qatar on Thursday for causing the death of their adopted African-born daughter, who was found to have died of starvation, in a case that has raised concern in Washington.

Matthew and Grace Huang were arrested in January last year after their 8-year-old daughter, Gloria, died unexpectedly.

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

The couple argued that Gloria had been suffering from malnutrition-related diseases since they adopted her from Ghana at the age of 4, and that the Qatari authorities had failed to acknowledge this.

The judge reading the verdict did not specify what offence the couple had been convicted of, but the prosecution had earlier downgraded an original charge of premeditated murder to one of "murder by negligence".

"We have just been wrongfully convicted and we feel as if we are being kidnapped by the Qatar judicial system," Matthew Huang said. "This verdict is wrong and appears to be nothing more than an effort to save face."

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Thursday that the United States was "surprised and disappointed by the trial court's decision."

Harf told a regular news briefing that U.S. officials "have had some concerns throughout the trial by indications that not all of the evidence was weighed by the court and that some cultural misunderstandings may have led to an unfair trial."

"We have talked to the government (of Qatar) about this. We will continue to. And I do believe there is some sort of appeal process," Harf said.   Continued...

Matthew (L) and Grace Huang, a U.S. couple who were accused of murdering their adopted daughter Gloria, stand outside the entrance of the Court of First Instance after their trial in Doha, March 27, 2014. REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous