An American Christian couple may face the death penalty due to the death of their adopted daughter, who passed unexpectedly after refusing to eat for several days.
The Associated Press reports that 8-year-old Gloria died in January 2013 when she was rushed to the hospital after falling into a coma.The Qatari government immediately arrested parents Matthew and Grace Huang, accusing them of child trafficking and of deliberately withholding food from her with the intent of killing her and selling the organs.
According to court papers, prosecution based the case partly on the suspicion that the Huangs, who are of Asian descent, could not possibly have wanted black African children as their own.
Matthew, an engineer, had agreed to work on engineering projects in Doha for the Colorado-based company MWH Global. He and his family moved to the Middle East with their two sons and a daughter, each adopted from Africa.
The Huangs revealed that Gloria had an eating disorder formed during an impoverished early childhood in Ghana in which she would binge on food and then not eat for days.
"From time to time she [Gloria] would exhibit an eating disorder - common among children with backgrounds similar to hers - where she would refuse food for days at a time and then eat more than an adult. Other times she would eat food from the garbage even when she had healthy food available. Yet most of the time she was vibrant and seemingly healthy. She then died suddenly in the midst of one of her cycles of refusing to eat."
Following her death, the Huangs were charged with murder and sentenced to three years in jail. They served 11 months in an Islamic prison before being granted bail last November.
Currently, the couple is kept under house arrest and are not permitted to leave Qatar. Their two remaining children are also currently held in Quatar, and are being cared for by their grandmother. A hearing will take place on November 30 and may result in the couple receiving the death penalty.
The AP reports that there is no physical evidence that Gloria suffered any starvation, and independent witnesses testified court that they had seen her eating several days before her death.
In addition, the word "starvation" was never mentioned by the medical examiner who conducted her autopsy, but rather "emaciation."
Supporters say the Huangs are not guilty, and their detention is a violation of international human rights.
"The Qatari police were fully justified in investigating Gloria's death. But facts refute the charge that the Huangs starved their daughter or that they had adopted her for illegitimate reasons," reads a statement posted on a website campaigning for the Huang's release The continued detention of American citizens Matthew and Grace Huang should end and they should be allowed to travel home to the United States immediately," a statement on the website reads.
Prayer vigils are being held by the Huangs' home church, Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, California, ahead of their next hearing.
Last Easter, Matthew wrote to his church: "The power of Jesus' work on the cross gives us new life. I am reminded that Easter is a time for rebirth, renewal, and restoration.
"My family needs to be restored together. My emotions are tired and weary. Jesus brings restoration, and we are reminded of that this Easter."