Posted November 09, 2013

American family aiding Qatar World Cup preparations accused of murdering daughter

2022 World Cup, FIFA World Cup, Qatar
The Huang family

The Huang family (from left to right: Grace, Gloria, Emmanuel, and Matthew) moved to Qatar to be involved in preparations for the 2022 World Cup. (Photo courtesy of the California Innocence Project)

When Matthew and Grace Huang, an American couple from Los Angeles, brought their three adopted children to live in Qatar in July 2012, they were looking forward to the chance to be involved in preparations for World Cup 2022 in that country.

“Matt was really excited that his company had a project here basically building the infrastructure of water management for the World Cup in Qatar,” Grace’s brother, Daniel Chin, told me from Doha this week. “His sons are huge soccer fans … He knew this World Cup was an amazing opportunity for the country, and he was excited to be part of it.”

The Huangs’ stay in Qatar has turned into a nightmare, however. Their eight-year-old daughter, Gloria, died last January, and Qatari authorities have accused the Huangs of starving her to death with the intent of selling her organs.

The Huangs deny those charges, saying there is no evidence and that Gloria — a special-needs child born in Africa, like the Huangs’ two sons — had an eating disorder from her days growing up in Ghana. Their defense team adds that the case is an extreme example of the Qatari system lacking due process, using faulty investigative techniques and being prejudiced against multicultural families in a country where adoption is extremely rare.

Qatari police investigators wrote that the Huangs, devout Christians who home-schooled their children, “participated with others in child trafficking, most likely to either sell their organs or to conduct medical experiments on them,” as the New York Times noted in a story this week.

In a February pre-trial hearing, a Qatari investigator was asked about proof of child trafficking and said: “The adoption process consists of searching for children who are good-looking and well-behaved, and who have hereditary features that are similar to those of the parents. But the children connected to this incident are all from Africa, and most of the families there are indigent.”

Through four pre-trial hearings, the Huangs’ lawyers were not allowed to present their side of the story to the Qatari judge. On Wednesday that finally happened, and the Huangs were temporarily released from prison, though the murder charges remain and they are not allowed to leave Qatar in advance of the next scheduled hearing on December 3.

“They had been in prison for nine-and-a-half months, or 295 days,” said Chin, who arrived in Qatar to support his family this week. He added that the Huangs had almost no contact with each other in prison and very little with people on the outside. Their sons were only recently allowed to be taken back to the U.S. by Grace Huang’s mother.

“As you can imagine, we are relieved they are out of prison,” said Chin. “The first thing they did is they called their sons, which was wonderful, and they spoke to them for quite a while … But this is still a very serious situation. The trial is not over. They’re still being accused of murder, so we have to work through the court system to prove their innocence.”

“The investigative process has been very different [from the U.S.], just navigating the cultural nuances as well as the fact that adoption-related issues are very foreign to people here,” Chin went on. “Also, Matthew and Grace are Christians, and as part of their faith, values and service, they knowingly adopted three special-needs children. So on top of all these adoption things, to adopt special-needs children is seen [by the Qatari system] as particularly odd.”

Wednesday’s temporary release came after character witnesses testified about the Huang’s child-rearing history and the practice of home-schooling in the U.S. Another witness testified that Gloria had seemed healthy just a few days before her death. A child starvation specialist also provided supporting testimony for the Huangs. “One cannot medically diagnose that a child was intentionally starved to death if the child was seen functioning and walking just a day before dying,” Dr. Janice Ophoven wrote in a statement to the court.

Chin said the U.S. government has been involved with the case but did not elaborate. The case has also been taken up by the California Innocence Project and the David House Agency, U.S.-based organizations that seek to publicize wrongful imprisonments and help clients in legal cases overseas, respectively.

“We want to see their names cleared of this crime they’re being accused of that they did not commit,” said Chin. “We want to make sure that the truth prevails. [Wednesday] was obviously a very good step in the right direction … We are ready for Matt and Grace to be home in the States and for this whole nightmare to be over.”

12 comments
cbarlow
cbarlow

There are other Arabic / Muslim countries that are "civilized" enough to host the World Cup. Qatar is definitely not one of them.  Both Morocco and Tunisia are better options.
Any country that requires exit visa with a very flawed judicial and legal system should not be allowed to host anything.

Stop
Stop

I'll be watching from home in 2022. No way I'd go there and spend money.

DerekOsley
DerekOsley

FIFA = the filthy, corrupt organization that granted a backwards, disgusting dictatorship called "Qatar" the World Cup.  And the media, like this web site, are complicit as they completely fail to mount a vigorous campaign of criticism against all of this.

RomarioDelLago
RomarioDelLago

Arabs = backwards racist, sexist, violent savages.  What else is there to say, really?  It's the truth and the truth hurts.

RickPotts
RickPotts

Can Blatter's decision to "give" the WC to Qatar get any worse?  Unsuitable infrastructure and climate.  No football history to speak off, slave labor, intolerant archaic legal system.  Will we find out next that Al Qaeda runs the country and the child sex slave industry is centered in Qatar?

James L
James L

Another reason to make the "gift" of the WC to Qatar only worse.  I love the game but this couple has been done a real injustice.  If the world football community were smart they would dump Blatter.

JonathanWBollback
JonathanWBollback

Thanks for posting this Grant! This family needs prayer and good legal counsel.

ChrisSanchez
ChrisSanchez

@RomarioDelLago You could say the exact some thing about Americans and most western civilizations, especially when you know nothing about them

PaulPierson
PaulPierson

@bserious @Stop @ChrisSanchez @RomarioDelLago  Wrong on the military.  Yes there might be issues that go on in the military...it is a microcosm of society, but the military is not mandated and there are ways in the system outside the military for women to be protected and live a life of their choice... when in comes to Quatar and most Muslim countries...not so much.  Saudi Arabian women had a demonstration requesting the right to DRIVE because although the law does not prohibit it, the government does not grant them a license... .  I'll take our blemishes and problems over their system and way of life any day... plus I do believe that we've outlawed stoning people for adultery for a few years now... 

bserious
bserious

@Stop @ChrisSanchez @RomarioDelLago Well, perhaps you can't say that about Americans if you're looking at things from an American perspective, and you don't want to admit there are problems, but it could easily be said. You could easily say it if you just picked one particular case that was strange court case, or focused on a collection of carefully chosen odd cases, we have many many strange cases to choose from.  In thinking about news stories off the top of my head, it's not hard to think up relevant stories.  Regarding racism, you could look at the fact that the country is one of the wealthiest in the world, yet has by far the highest per capita incarceration rate, and that people of a certain race are convicted at a much higher level then people of other races.  Regarding sexism, you could look at how women in the military are treated, and how some women have said that they're more afraid of their fellow male soldiers than they are of enemy soldiers.  And regarding violence, you could look at how many gun deaths there are, and how many mass shootings we've had.  Yeah, it wouldn't really be hard for someone to find reasons to back up saying this about the US, without being either delusional or a liar.