An American couple feels trapped and abandoned by the U.S. government as they await a possible death sentence following the death of their daughter in the oil-rich country of Qatar. Grace and Matthew Huang were accused of starving their adopted daughter Gloria to death almost two years ago. Since the tragic night of Gloria's passing, the Huangs have been jailed, separated from their other two children. Their lives are in the hands of a foreign government whose judicial process is mysterious and terrifying to them.They decided to share their story exclusively with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric.
With the death penalty on the table, Grace Huang believes the U.S. government must act before their Nov. 30 sentencing. "We want them to get us home before the 30th. On the 30th, we do not know what this court will do," she says.
The United States government has pressed Qatar to lift the travel ban the Huangs face, but the couple says that's not enough. "We need more action from the United States," says Matthew. "We want the State Department to continue to press for our release."
The Huangs moved with their children to Doha, Qatar's capital, back in 2012. Tragedy struck on the night of Jan. 15, 2013, when 8-year-old Gloria was found unresponsive on her bedroom floor. She was rushed to the nearest hospital, where after 40 minutes of CPR she was pronounced dead. Almost immediately, the Huangs say, Qatari authorities identified them as suspects. "I believe that authorities in Qatar suspected foul play because we are Asian and we adopted three children from Africa who are black," says Matthew. Within hours, authorities arrested the couple and accused them of killing their daughter in order to sell her body parts on the black market.
Like the Huangs' two sons, Gloria had been adopted as a child with special needs from Africa. The couple believes some of the medical and psychological issues Gloria displayed stemmed from experiences she had before being adopted. "A lot of her struggles were from malnourishment from when she was younger," says Matthew.
This spring, the couple finally stood trial in Doha. In court, the first question prosecutors asked their first witness was about those human-trafficking accusations. "I'm outraged by the court system here," Matthew says. "We feel like there have been lies spoken to us by the Qatari government over and over. And the court process here is just not rational."
The Huangs also say the prosecution continues to rely on discredited evidence. "They botched the autopsy," says Matthew, who with his wife points to a pathology report commissioned on their behalf, which found no evidence that tissue samples had ever been collected from Gloria's body.
On March 27, a judge sentenced Grace and Matthew Huang to three years in prison. The Huangs immediately appealed, and so did the prosecution. Grace says prosecutors continue to ask for the death penalty in their case: "That's what the prosecution wants and asks for every time.”
The two rarely leave their apartment. The notoriety of their case in Qatar has made the couple uncomfortable in public. "I'm fearful. I'm fearful of this country, I'm fearful of this government," Matthew tells Couric.
Skype enables the couple to speak to their two sons, who were allowed to return to the United States, where they are now cared for by family members. But Matthew says that's not enough. Both Grace and Matthew long to be parents once again and to begin mourning the death of Gloria. "We have not been able or begun to grieve at all," says Matthew.