|Chinese couple jailed for starving African child
A married Chinese couple from Los Angeles charged with starving their 8-year-old adopted African daughter to death in Qatar was sentenced to three years in prison.
The verdict stunned and shocked the family, according to the couple's defense lawyer.
Matthew and Grace Huang (Pictured with Gloria, the adopted Ghanian child, second from left. The eight-year-old died in January last year) were jailed in Qatar on murder charges in January 2013, following the death of their African daughter, Gloria. They were released from prison last November, but banned from leaving Qatar during the trial, AP reports.
On Wednesday, the US State Department expressed concern that not all of the evidence had been weighed by the court. It also said it had raised the case with Qatari officials on multiple occasions.
The prosecution demanded the death penalty, alleging that the couple had denied food to Gloria and said she was locked in her room at night. The girl was pronounced dead when Huangs took her to the hospital in January 2013.
The Huangs say their daughter, who was born in Ghana, died of medical problems complicated by unusual eating habits that included periods of binging and self-starvation. Defense witnesses have testified that the girl appeared healthy and active just days before her death.
A Qatari doctor who performed Gloria's autopsy found that the child's hips, ribs and spine protruded and concluded the cause of death was dehydration and wasting disease.
During Thursday's sentencing in Doha, Judge Abdullah El-Emedy also ordered the Huangs deported from Qatar after serving the three-year sentence and fined them 15,000 Qatari riyals, about US$4,100.
Matthew Huang, who had been working in Qatar, expressed his shock.
“We just don't believe that we have been convicted,'' he said. “This verdict should be overturned immediately and we should be allowed to go home.''
The Huangs' lawyer, Sami Abu Sheikha, said the judge hastily quickly read out the sentence and failed to say what the couple was guilty of. He said he would appeal.
“We feel that we have been kidnapped by the Qatari judicial system,'' Matthew told reporters outside the courthouse after the sentencing. “This is wrong.''
An investigative report by Qatari police had raised questions about why the Huangs would adopt children who did not share their “hereditary traits'' and raised concerns that the children were part of a human trafficking operation or were “bought'' for organ harvesting, according to the family's website.