LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A U.S. couple who were convicted and later cleared of wrongdoing in the death of their adopted African-born daughter in Qatar left the Gulf Arab state on Wednesday after a travel ban was lifted, ending a nearly two-year ordeal, their supporters and a U.S. diplomat said.
Matthew and Grace Huang left Doha, headed for Los Angeles to reunite with their two other children, also adopted, following a flurry of diplomacy on behalf of the family after an appeals court threw out their conviction.
“Matt and Grace Huang are wheels up from Qatar,” U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith said in a Twitter post. “Emotional. These are the moments all diplomats live for.”
The Huangs were arrested in January 2013 after an autopsy found their 8-year-old daughter, Gloria, died of dehydration and cachexia, an irreversible loss of body mass. The couple said Gloria suffered from malnutrition-related diseases since they adopted her from Ghana at age 4.
The couple had initially been charged with murder in the death and were convicted of lesser child endangerment charges earlier this year in connection with Gloria’s death, according to a support website for the family.
U.S. State Department officials had expressed concerns that cultural misunderstandings could have played a role in the couple’s prosecution in a country unaccustomed to multiracial families and adoption.
A representative for Qatar’s embassy in Washington could not be reached for comment.
An appeals court threw out the convictions against the couple on Sunday. Yet when they subsequently sought to leave Qatar, they were stopped at the Doha airport and their passports seized, family spokesman Eric Volz said earlier this week.
“I am thrilled to announce that the Huangs are leaving Qatar after having the travel ban lifted,” said California Innocence Project director Justin Brooks, whose organization had been involved in the case.