With reporting from Amin Isaac
An American couple jailed in Qatar for nearly a year on charges of starving their daughter to death have been released from prison until the trial is over, but will not be allowed to leave the country, a relative has said.
A judge made the decision after Matt and Grace Huang appeared in court today for the fifth time, during which the defense was finally permitted to call its witnesses.
In a statement sent to Doha News, Daniel Chin, the brother of Matt, said:
“Today after the Qatar court heard Matt and Grace’s side of the story for the first time, the presiding judge ordered Matt and Grace to be released on bail, with a travel ban preventing them from returning home to the United States.
Though we see this as a positive step, their trial is not over and we will continue to work within the Qatari legal system to demonstrate their innocence. Until then, our family prays that the hearts and minds of the judicial leaders will be pointed to the truth.”
The Huangs were arrested in January, after their eight-year-old adopted daughter Gloria suddenly died.
The cause of the child’s death remains unknown, but her father did tell police that the child had not eaten in four days. According to the family’s legal counsel, Gloria had been combating an eating disorder that stemmed out of living in extreme poverty in Ghana, and would binge on food and then refuse it for several days.
In the days following Gloria’s death, the Huangs’ two surviving children, who are also adopted, were briefly housed at Dhreima, a government-run orphanage. They then stayed with their grandmother here until last month, when the travel ban against them was lifted after suspicions cleared that the couple was somehow involved in human trafficking.
Movement on the case
During today’s hearing, several friends of the Huangs testified that the couple were good parents to their three children. According to them, certain choices made by the couple, including homeschooling their kids and adopting them from Africa even though the couple is of Asian descent, caused investigators to jump to the wrong conclusions.
Their remarks closely mirror the conclusion reached by the California Innocence Project, a program run by the California Western School of Law that works to clear people who have been charged with crimes they didn’t commit. On a website set up in support of the Huangs, the CIP states:
“The Huangs’ adoption of three black children is suspicious, the Qatari police have claimed, ‘since the main reasons, when buying a child, must be that they are good-looking and well-behaved, or have hereditary features that are similar to those of the parents. But in this case, on the contrary, the children connected to the incident are all from Africa.’ “
US Embassy officials were present at today’s hearing, but declined to comment.
Closing arguments in the case are scheduled for Dec. 3, and the judge is expected to take a few weeks to reach his decision.