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Qatar Frees U.S. Couple Accused of Killing Adopted Daughter — But Blocks Exit

Matthew and Grace Huang were originally jailed on murder charges following the death of their adopted daughter, Gloria.
Matthew and Grace Huang, a U.S. couple charged with parental neglect leading to the death of their adopted daughter, talk to journalists after being acquitted by a Qatari appeals court on Sunday in Doha.VICTORIA BAUX / AFP - Getty Images

DOHA, Qatar — A Qatari appeals court on Sunday overturned a ruling against an American couple over the death of their adopted daughter and said they are free to leave, seemingly ending a closely watched legal saga that may have stemmed from cultural misunderstandings in the conservative Gulf nation.

But a representative for the family said the couple was later barred from leaving the country.

Los Angeles couple Matthew and Grace Huang, who were originally jailed on murder charges following the January 2013 death of their adopted daughter Gloria, headed to the airport soon after the ruling to try to leave Qatar, said Eric Volz, who is coordinating legal and publicity efforts for the family.

Voltz told The Associated Press that Qatari immigration officials blocked the Huangs from leaving Sunday and confiscated their passports just hours after the appeals court overturned a child endangerment verdict against them.

The couple was convicted of child endangerment and sentenced to three years in prison in March. They were allowed to remain free pending their appeal but couldn't leave the wealthy OPEC nation. The Huangs say 8-year-old Gloria died of medical problems complicated by unusual eating habits that included periods of binging and self-starvation. Prosecutors alleged she died after being denied food and locked in her room. The Huangs have two other African-born adopted children and had been pressing Qatari officials unsuccessfully for permission to leave the country to be with them.

"It has been a long and emotional trial for me and my family, and Grace and I want to go home and be reunited with our sons," Matthew Huang said after the ruling but before they were barred from leaving. "We have been unable to grieve our daughter."

U.S. officials intervened on the couple's behalf, with State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki last month urging Qatar to lift their travel ban immediately and bring the case to "an expeditious and just conclusion."

— The Associated Press