With reporting from Riham Sheble
Updated at 8:10pm with information about lifting of travel ban
A travel ban that has preventing Matthew and Grace Huang from leaving Qatar after they were cleared of a criminal conviction this week is being lifted imminently, according to the US Ambassador to the country.
In a tweet posted this evening, Dana Shell Smith said:
Update: just informed by GoQ that all requirements met, no further appeal, travel ban to be lifted. Huangs can go tomorrow.
— CdA Natalie A. Baker (@USAmbQatar) December 2, 2014
The Huangs’ family spokesman has yet to comment on the lifting of the ban, only confirming that they’ve received the news from Shell Smith.
Last night, US Secretary of State John Kerry also weighed in, saying in a statement:
“The Attorney General of the State of Qatar has informed the U.S. Embassy in Qatar that no further appeal will be filed in the case of Matthew and Grace Huang. At the opening of business on Wednesday December 3, the travel ban will be lifted and Mr. and Mrs. Huang will be free to travel. The United States applauds this decision, and we look forward to seeing the Huangs reunited with their children at home.”
The Huangs have been prohibited from exiting Qatar since being charged in January 2013 in connection with the death of their eight-year-old daughter, Gloria.
An appeals judge overturned the American couple’s conviction of child endangerment on Sunday and told the Huangs that they were free to go.
Several hours later, they went to Hamad International Airport in at attempt to fly to the US but were stopped at immigration.
Yesterday, the US government characterized the delay as a procedural matter that is in the process of being resolved.
“We obviously weren’t aware of additional paperwork that was required,” US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told a press conference in Washington on Monday.
No new charges
Contrary to earlier comments made by a Huangs spokesperson, Psaki said there was nothing to suggest new charges had been filed against the Huangs or that authorities in Qatar had put up fresh barriers that barred the exonerated couple from leaving the county.
A legal source told Doha News on Sunday night that lifting a travel ban typically requires a formal application along with a copy of the court’s judgment. A separate source said yesterday that the Huangs did not make this submission until Monday afternoon.
Eric Volz – managing director the David House Agency, which is handling the Huang’s public relations – said in a Facebook post that Psaki’s suggestion that the team hadn’t filed the necessary paperwork was “100% false.”
When asked by Doha News yesterday about filing an application to lift the travel ban, Volz noted that it took less than an hour to lift a travel restriction on the Huangs’ two sons in October 2013.
This morning, he said on Twitter that he was still hopeful that authorities would imminently allow the Huangs to leave the country:
On Sunday, a judge tossed out a lower court’s conviction of the Huangs, saying there was “no evidence that they put the interests of the girl (their daughter) in harm’s way.”
Gloria died in January 2013 after not eating for four days. The young girl, who had been adopted from Ghana, suffered from an eating disorder that caused her to binge on food and then reject it for days.
While prosecutors said the Huangs should have sought medical attention for the eight-year-old before she collapsed, Matthew Huang said Gloria was still “lively and active” and that they expected her to come out of her “hunger strike” as she had done before.
The appeals judge cited testimony from acquaintances of the Huangs who said they saw Gloria playing at her house approximately 24 hours before her death as evidence that the Huangs provided extreme care – as well as food, education and recreation opportunities – to their children.
The judge also raised inconsistencies in forensic evidence presented to in court that failed to conclusively determine how Gloria died.
It’s a regular procedure for everyone in Qatar that has travel ban, it has to be lifted by the separate court and it takes a day after submitting all of the documents. I’m very surprised that US Embassy is not aware of that! Qatar doesn’t have electronic system for courts and all the work is done manually, lots of paper work etc.
They said that it took only an hour to lift the travel ban on their two sons. There is no regular or permanent procedure in Qatar, if the right person in the right position orders it, the Huangs can leave Qatar. Let the Huangs go home and forever be punished by their conscience for
the rest of their lives.
Their sons are minors therefore they have no bank account or bills against their names and also they were not on convicted in courts, and then had the conviction overturned .. two very different things
But they all have a travel ban. There are no mention in any news that they have problems with any bank or that they have traffic violations. So far everybody have agreed that there is a travel ban against them that have to be lifted. Prediction: The Huangs will be released very soon. 😀
From my personal experience, it takes way more than a DAY, maybe more than a month, even though it looks very simple if the person involved is clear ( as in, no unpaid bills, or other cases, or traffic violations, etc ). If their ban was removed in a DAY, I guess it’s because the US embassy was involved. We all know how long it takes paper work to get your things done. People who had cases in the court ( regardless the civil or the Islamic court ) know exactly what I’m referring to.
The US embassy is probably well aware of that and wanted some publicity in order to shorten the time needed for the docs to get them out
Yeah that shocked me too. After a complicated case such as this, its a bit silly to fondly imagine they will let you leave the same day.
At the very least, the lesson from this should be that the Qatar government needs a new PR firm.
and the state department needs some better insight
Just removing the ban is a traumatic ordeal. After I was falsely accused of raping a 9 year old Qatari student and subsequently jailed and later cleared I personally had to do all the chasing for paper work, stamps and certificates. It involves returning to the court of appeals and continual requesting and chasing up the final written verdict and taking it to the building in west bay near city centre mall which houses the prosecutors office.
Many people would not realise what this building is but many will have seen it. This would be the same building that the Huangs would have visited on the day or day after being initially imprisoned. They would have been locked in the cells underneath the building waiting to see the prosecutor. They would have had the accusations and charges read to them in Arabic. This would lead them to their next problem. Once handing in their documents they would need an arabic speaking person to assist in talking to the correct people within the building. No arabic speaking person wants to go in with you as they are afraid of the place. After negotiating the different levels of the building and being lead from one person to the next you might be successful with handing in the required paper work. Nobody really seems to know the procedure. Now you wait and hope that everything gets signed and stamped…. inshallah?!
There is no sense of urgency on their part, no sense of injustice that you have to wait. For me it took a couple of weeks of continual visits to get the paper work completed.
You would think that this process would then be completed and you are now off the travel ban list but no… you now have to take your new documents to the Capital Police (where I was imprisoned and also guessing where the Huangs were imprisoned for a year). This process was surprisingly the easiest for me and was completed within minutes. I flew out that day but it took 2 months after being cleared by the criminal courts, 1 month after they unsuccessfully appealed the first decision.
Qatar can be cruel.
This would be consistent with the story in the Glass Palace, except that took the exonerated about 6 months.
I know you experienced a terrible and unfair injustice, but your constant and continuous need to remind the DN discussion boards of this cannot be in your healing interests. I have lost count of the number of times you have repeated your experience and emphasized your innocence. I feel frustration for the injustice done to you but for your own well being, please try and find some peace and resolution and a way to let it go.
I completely understand what you have been through, and how painful and unfair that was. The really cruel part is that this could happen to any one living here due to small, unintended error by any government employee while writing one wrong digit in ID number, and without having you really done anything. Sounds far from reality? maybe, but it really happened.
Still being punished even after being acquitted. Those that say this is just a procedure, (a lengthy one) are justifying false imprisonment in the state of Qatar.
You might as well say the Palestinians are free to travel if they file the correct paperwork with the Israelis. They know the procedure, so if there are delays it is to be expected.
I’m waiting for the day you’ll take your stuffs and just leave.
I got tired of seeing comments from you. Have some dignity and a life and get out of here.
a bit frustrated tonight?
Freedom of movement is a basic human right. Despite being cleared by a Qatari court they are being held prisoner in Qatar. I don’t see how you can support this.
The Palestinian people are also being oppressed and denied the same basic right to freedom of movement but I never thought you would believe Israeli policies are fair
Whilst I don’t always agree with MIMH I find his/her comments often provocative, truthful, straight to the point and sometimes even funny. This is a discussion forum. We need all the variety of responses that come through here for lively and erudite conversations. Otherwise this would be a very boring forum.
Oh no, you’ve upset someone on the internet.
According to their PR guy: “Eric Volz @EricVolz · 21m21 minutes ago
US Ambassador @ambdana escorted Matt and Grace through immigration to lounge were we r waiting.”