According to The Associated Press, an American couple cleared of charges in their adopted daughter's death left the Gulf Arab nation on Wednesday (December 3), leaving behind a nearly two-year saga that climaxed with a court ruling them of any wrongdoing.
The Los Angeles couple, Matthew and Grace Huang, found themselves mired in what can only be described as a political Catch-22 after they were arrested in January 2013 on murder charges following the death in Qatar of their 8-year-old daughter Gloria, who was born in Ghana.
Throughout the case, the family's representative continuously expressed concern that there were cultural misunderstandings underpinning the charges against them. Western-style adoptions and cross-cultural families are relatively rare in Qatar, which hosts an important American military air operations center near Doha that is involved in airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS).
The Huangs, of Asian descent, have two other African-born adopted children who left Qatar during the trial to reside with relatives in the US.
The case drew Washington's involvement, with US Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith accompanying the Huangs on Wednesday at the Doha's Hamad International Airport to ensure they cleared passport control and reached their departure gate. The Huang's attorney was also present.
"We feel relieved. We feel gratitude to the legal system in the state of Qatar, which after some time worked as a good legal system should," Smith told the AP after ensuring the couple made it to their departure gate.
An AP reporter at the airport witnessed the couple's last moments in Qatar before they were cleared to leave--a tense experience that brought Grace Huang to tears at one point when her husband was held up for around five minutes on the other side of passport control.
COMMENT: If there any any lessons to be learned from the the Huangs experience, it is that families with very different cultural perceptions and belief systems should take steps to not expose themselves to cultures that fail to understand that the love of families come in many forms.
I respectfully disagree with the US ambassador: The motivations of the Qataris stem from a failure to believe parents from a diametrically different cultural background from those they were familiar with. In essence, this was not a legal issue at all, but a cultural difference that tragically became politicized.
The suspense encapsulates the twists and turns that the case has taken over the past two years, largely because the Qataris failed to believe the parents.
After a Qatari appeals court overturned charges of wrongdoing against the couple on Sunday (November 30) and the judge told them they were free to go, the Huangs were stopped at the airport and had their passports confiscated as they attempted to pass through airport immigration control later that day.
The delay had been caused by procedural steps that needed to be completed first, according to the family's representative Eric Volz, who traveled with them Wednesday (December 3).
On multiple occasions, the State Department raised the case with Qatari authorities and even expressed concern that not all of the evidence had been weighed by the court.
US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke Sunday with Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah and urged the government to immediately implement the court's decision and allow the Huangs to return home to Los Angeles.
A pathologist in Qatar who conducted Gloria's autopsy determined that dehydration and a wasting disease were the cause of death. A report by Qatari police raised questions about why the Huangs would adopt children who did not share their "hereditary traits," which appears to have a foundation in skewed political perceptions.
The Huangs said Gloria suffered from medical problems complicated by unusual eating habits. A report prepared in the US by Janice Ophoven, a pediatric forensic psychologist who reviewed the case for the family, said that Gloria was severely malnourished when she was younger and would at times refuse to eat for several days before binge eating or getting food from unusual places, such as garbage cans or from strangers.