An American Christian couple charged by the Qatari government for murdering their 8-year-old adopted daughter were released from custody Wednesday even as hearings continue. The case highlights the misunderstandings about cross-cultural adoptions in the country.
Matthew and Grace Huang were arrested in January after their daughter Gloria died from what they said was medical complications after an anorexia-like bout. The Chinese-American couple, who adopted Gloria from Ghana and two other children from Africa, was living in Qatar while Matthew worked on a major infrastructure project for the 2022 World Cup.
But the Qatari government, which is unfamiliar with international adoptions, claimed the couple starved the child to sell her organs. In an initial investigation, the police raised questions about why the Huangs would adopt children who did not share their “hereditary traits” and were not “good-looking,” and theorized that they wanted to harvest their organs, according to the family’s website. If charged with murder, the couple could potentially face the death penalty.
The ruling by Judge Abdullah al-Emady to free the couple from detention followed a 4-hour hearing as witnesses testified about the family. Friends described the Huangs as loving parents and according to Al Jazeera, one witness said his family and the Huangs met for lunch four days before Gloria died. “Matt and Grace made sure their children were eating their food,” said Doha resident Roy Verripis from South Africa.
The Huangs said Gloria was severely malnourished in early childhood, which led to eating problems after they adopted her at the age of 4. Gloria would sometimes refuse food for several days then binge from bizarre sources like garbage cans. When she died, she was in an anorexic episode, according to a report by Janice Ophoven, a pediatric forensic pathologist who reviewed the case for the family.
The couple was not required to post bail but cannot leave Qatar. Their next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 3. Their two other adopted children were allowed to leave the country and are now with family in the United States.
Grace’s brother, Daniel Chin, told Al Jazeera after the hearing that they would continue fighting for their freedom.
“We’re going to continue to work through the legal system here to resolve their innocence,” Chin said. “It’s been a very long process. … It’s been frustrating at times. It’s one of the strangest things we’ve experienced for sure. We believe this is going to be resolved, and the courts will find them innocent.”