An American couple facing three years in Qatar jail after the death of their eight-year-old daughter returned to a local appeals court today, hoping for the lifting of a travel ban against them.
But despite strong urging from the US, Matt and Grace Huang will remain in Qatar at least until their appeals verdict is heard on Nov. 30.
After not eating for four days, the Huangs’ daughter Gloria died suddenly in January 2013. The couple was arrested shortly after that and held for nearly a year, until a judge ordered their release pending a verdict in the murder trial.
The Huangs adopted Gloria from Ghana when she was four years old. Because she spent her early years in poverty, the child was fighting an eating disorder that caused her to binge on food and then refuse to eat for several days at a time, they said.
In March, the judge sentenced the Huangs to three years in jail for child endangerment, a sentence they do not have to serve until the appeals process is finished.
But progress on the case has been slow. This is the third time the couple has appeared in the appellate court over the past six months. However, today they had a translator, unlike in some previous sessions.
This morning’s session, which was attended by a number of international and local journalists, was tense.
In an uncharacteristic outburst, Matthew Huang shouted at the prosecutor in the courtroom as the official outlined his case against the couple, saying “You lie! You lie!”
While the Huangs are seeking a dismissal of this case, the prosecutor has been pushing for the couple to be given a harsher sentence during the appeal.
In the past, the court representative has repeatedly accused the Huangs of trafficking Gloria and their two adopted sons in a bid to sell their organs. But today, an appeals judge instructed him not to raise the issue again, as it was not related to the case.
The judge also cut short the defense’s questions.
Also this morning, a forensic doctor who examined the deceased’s body was recalled to the stand. He reiterated testimony that Gloria’s body was emaciated, and appeared to be weak and dehydrated.
He also contradicted previous forensic testimony, saying that Gloria did not have any water in her bladder or food in her intestine.
However, he did not respond affirmatively when the prosecutor asked if the child had been starved to death, saying it wasn’t his job to reach such conclusions.
Previously, a US pathologist who examined Gloria’s body when it was returned home questioned the validity of the Qatar-based examiner’s report, saying he found no evidence that tissue samples had been removed from her brain or major organs in Qatar, meaning no analysis could have actually been performed.
Meanwhile, no mention was made of the travel ban the couple has been under since Gloria’s death.
In a statement issued on Oct. 6, the US State Department urged Qatar to lift that ban, so the Huangs could reunite with their two sons:
“The U.S. Government strongly urges that the Qatari Government immediately lift the travel ban and allow Mr. and Mrs. Huang to return to the United States on a humanitarian basis to be reunited with their children and family, pending the completion of legal proceedings. We continue to call on the Qatari Government to bring the case to an expeditious and just conclusion.”
Reacting to today’s session, Matthew Huang said:
“We feel kidnapped and trapped. It feels like there is no end to this. This court is a sham. They did not even allow our attorney to cross-examine the prosecutors witness. The Qatar government is ignoring the calls of the US government for our release.
I believe that the Emir has a heart for justice, but this is the fault of lower level authorities who refuse to admit they made mistakes and instead have resorting to lies and fabricating evidence.”
The overwhelming feeling among expats in relation to the Qatari justice system is fear. I make no judgement on this case, but the way it has been handled, along with Vilaggio and many other high-profile cases, instils absolutely no confidence whatsoever that justice will be served on anyone who comes up rightly or wrongly against the law.
I don’t think the legal proceeding of this
particular case is limited to Qatar, but the entire Region. The case is just beyond cultural norms here , Home-schooling a child with an eating disorder with no regular medical specialist observation in a
foreign country is difficult to comprehend…
Your feeling is understandable and though it’s a bit paranoid, it’s not entirely without merit. I cannot speak for all legal systems in the world, but if I take the U.S. as an example, how do you think foreigners who don’t speak the language feel there? Even American citizens who are not wealthy enough to hire goo legal council are often ill-served by the system there.
I really wish I knew what to say to you to ease your worry, but even among us Qataris, many find the legal system here to be very inefficient and not entirely trust worthy.
I don’t know if they are guilty or innocent, but the first question in my mind is: how could they defend themselves before if there was no translator most of the times?
they are american, so one would think they can speak English, plus i assume they have a lawyer who defends them
I believe court proceedings are in Arabic here. NO?
they get a translation after.
during the court proceedings it doesn’t matter, as long as they are not being questioned they are not allowed to talk
How can you raise objections if you don’t understand the proceedings. So the prosecutor can say anything and you’re supposed to just smile and nod?
I’m pretty sure it’s the lawyer that objects not the defendant. Unless you’re representing yourself
I still can’t get over the fact they locked the child in her room each night after eight, cause she had an eating disorder and would go and binge on the fridge at times. This does not make any sense at all. Living with an autistic family member who is in my care and suffers from aggressive tantrums we would never ever lock him in his room while he is asleep!
i don’t believe they are guilty, but there is negligence on their part. leaving a child to go without food for four days without seeking medical help is unforgivable and would also never be tolerated in US courts.
it wasnt the fridge she used to binge in…it was the bin!
🙁 that’s even worest…. i don’t know the full details of the story and i won’t believe neither the courts nor dohanews… so I won’t comment much… just something went horribly wrong and a child died as a result..
they locked the child up in her room,who at times was so hungry she would eat out of the garbage. that is negligence anyway you look at it
Read the story from the beginning. They locked the child in her room at night because she would eat out of the garbage if she couldn’t find anything else to eat.
I did read the full story, she apparently became “addicted” to eating out of the garbage like a “drug” so I ask why didn’t they keep food available? Why didn’t they take her to someone 2 help? Extremely irresponsible and down right negligent to just lock her up. He stops eating for days then binges, gets so hungry she eats trash and the parents failed to provide her with the help or care she needed
I agree. Why did they not seek help? A child is emaciated and starving itself and showing signs of mental instability…obviously she needed medical help and they did not care to get it. And I do not approve of locking a child in a room; no matter what. There is negligence and they should be held responsible for that.
Does justice also apply to those responsible (i.e. the ambassador from Qatar in Belgium and his wife) for the Villagio fire ?
you mean the lighting in the nike store room? or do you mean those responsible for the day care where the children died because of the fire?
I clarified my post.
The most frustrating thing about this whole story is that it is not. It is only partial. As a parent, I cannot EVER fathom causing harm, direct or indirect, intentional or other in any form, whether it’s witholding food, isolation or anything. The real facts in this case remain elusive. The expression no smoke without fire comes to mind. Intentions, sometimes however well-meaning, do backfire. Only time and a transparent information process will reveal all. Let’s wait and see.