SAN GABRIEL (CBSLA.com) — A Southland couple has been sentenced to three years behind bars in Qatar, where they were indicted for allegedly starving their eight-year-old daughter to death.
Prosecutors claim Matthew and Grace Huang, from San Gabriel, intended to sell the organs of their adopted daughter, Gloria, following her sudden passing last January.
The Huangs were sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of 15,000 Qatar Ryals (USD $4,100).
"We have just wrongfully been convicted and we feel as if we are being kidnapped by the Qatar judicial system," Matthew Huang told reporters after the ruling.
"This verdict should be overturned immediately and we should be allowed to go home."
The Huangs were facing the death penalty and waited to hear their verdict while Qatari Judge Abdaulah Ali Al-Emadi made findings of guilt or innocence in several other cases.
The Innocence Project at California Western School of Law in San Diego, along with The David House Agency, represented the couple.
Thursday, the Innocence Project's director, Justin Brooks, aggressively criticized the Qatari judicial system, claiming the the couple was not given a fair trial.
"The Huangs are 100 percent innocent," Brooks said. "The prosecution's case made no sense. The idea that these loving parents starved their daughter to death to harvest her organs is absolutely ludicrous."
The Huangs' case was last on the docket, according to the organization, which says the judge announced their sentences without making any finding of innocence or guilt.
"The case against the couple was unsubstantiated by any evidence," Brooks continued. "An autopsy conducted in the United States established that the original autopsy in Qatar was likely fabricated and that it was medically impossible that starvation was the cause of death."
The Huangs moved to Qatar from Los Angeles with their three adopted children in 2012 so that Mathew, a Stanford-trained engineer, could work on a project for the World Cup, to be held in Qatar in 2022. They adopted Gloria from an orphanage in Ghana in 2009.
Their case began in January 2013, after Gloria's sudden death. The Huangs said their daughter had an eating disorder stemming from malnourishment in early childhood.
Brooks believes racial and cultural misunderstandings by officials in the Muslim country about Western-style adoptions may be to blame.
"In the actual police reports, it stated, 'Why would these Asian parents adopt black children?'"
"No verdict other than innocent makes sense," Brooks argued. "The Huangs should be acquitted of all charges and be allowed to return to the United States immediately."
The couple will remain free during the appeal process. The American Embassy is following the case and the Huangs are calling on President Obama to get involved.
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