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Friday, July 23, 2021

Judge questions confinement allegations as Huangs’ appeal continues

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huangs

The appeal process for an American couple convicted after their daughter’s death resumed in a Doha courtroom on Monday, with a judge questioning why the eight-year-old was sometimes locked in her bedroom at night.

Matthew and Grace Huang were sentenced to three years in prison earlier this year for parental neglect following the January 2013 death of their adopted daughter, Gloria.

The Huangs told police that the child had refused to eat for four days leading up to her death, but witnesses also testified that she was seen smiling and walking around before she died.

Their lawyer, Sami Abu Shaikha, is asking for the conviction to be thrown out while prosecutors are pressing for a harsher sentence. A judge has merged both appeals into a single case.

On Monday, a prosecutor laid out the same narrative presented in the lower court: that the Huangs starved Gloria to death, kept her locked in her room and neglected to seek medical help for their ill daughter.

Abu Shaikha responded by telling the court that there was no evidence Gloria was starved to death by her parents. His argument is backed by the findings of the lower court, which concluded in its ruling that Gloria was not denied food.

However, a judge in that court said that Matthew and Grace Huang should serve jail time for exposing their daughter to danger after she refused to eat and for failing to provide the necessary treatment.

Confinement question

As Abu Shaikha read from his prepared statement, he was interrupted by a judge’s question: Why was Gloria locked inside of her bedroom on some nights?

Abu Shaikha paused and flipped through his stack of papers before answering. He responded that because Gloria’s biological parents in Ghana didn’t always have enough food to feed their family, Gloria and her siblings would be forced to rummage through garbage to find something to eat.

He reiterated what was said during the previous trial – that Gloria suffered an eating disorder from growing up in extreme poverty, which caused her to binge on food and refuse it for several days.

Abu Shaikha added that Gloria became “addicted” to the practice, much like a drug – a comparison that elicited laughter from one of the judges – and that her parents restricted her movements at night in an attempt to rid her of the habit.

Specifically, he said they would “lock her up” between 8pm and 6am so she wouldn’t have access to food.

“Like any addict, she needed treatment. And that was the treatment,” he said in Arabic.

Doctor’s visits

After addressing the judge’s question, Abu Shaikha returned to reading his prepared remarks and rebutted the argument that the Huangs failed to provide the necessary medical care for Gloria.

The parents brought Gloria and her two brothers, who were also adopted, for annual check-ups with doctors in the United States. As recently as June 2012 – roughly seven months before she died – the young girl had been deemed physically sound by a physician and cleared to travel, according to the defense lawyer.

The family followed a pattern of regular doctor appointments and had no reason to rush Gloria in for emergency treatment, he added.

Matthew Huang previously offered his own explanation in a video appeal to supporters:

“We did not take Gloria to the hospital when she was refusing to eat because we believed she would come out of these hunger strikes as she had done before. She was lively and active and there was no reason to suspect any concern for her health.”

Travel ban maintained

Matthew and Grace Huang both attended Monday’s hearing, but were not assisted by a translator in court, where sessions are conducted almost entirely in Arabic.

The couple remains out of prison, but cannot leave Qatar because of a travel ban – a restriction that was not enforced on several of those convicted in the Villaggio manslaughter case, which is also currently before the Court of Appeals.

The next hearing in the Huangs case is set for Oct. 20, during which the court will hear from a forensic doctor who examined Gloria’s body after she died in January 2013.

Grace Huang, whose two sons are currently in the care of relatives in the US, said she was shocked by the four-month gap in hearings. In a statement, she said:

“When you are innocent, these judicial delays are devastating. This travel ban is destroying our family and driving us into bankruptcy. Why is it that others convicted to worse sentences (than) ours are free to travel with no travel ban? This is discrimination. Qatar is not a safe place for Americans. Period.”

Thoughts?

24 COMMENTS

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Gareth Walters
Gareth Walters
7 years ago

There is something very strange about this case. I am not suggesting that is family had any intention of killing their daughter, but there is just something not quite right here. something about this couple just doesn’t seem to add up.

Abdulaziz Al-Sulaiti
Abdulaziz Al-Sulaiti
7 years ago

“Qatar is not a safe place for Americans. Period.” – Suggesting that they were convicted because they’re Americans? I highly doubt this is the case, If anything they would be looked at as Asians not Americans….

Although I believe the delays between the hearings are ridiculous, their story still doesn’t add up for me. I’m pretty sure in ANY family if someone misses a meal or two, everyone would be concerned and would see if there’s something wrong with them, what about four days? I understand the child was in a poor environment and they would go days without food but that’s not the case here, they had food and everything available. They should have treated this hunger strike patterns using a professional medical treatment, not lock her up in her room so she wouldn’t binge on the food. They knew what they were getting into when they adopted kids from an extremely poor country. They were supposed to seek medical advise and not their own, which neglected her health status and led her die because of starvation.

MIMH
MIMH
7 years ago

I think they are implying that because the others in the Villagio case were Qataris and even though they were convicted different standards were applied. Looking from the outside that does seem to be the case.
However I have no comment on the case itself because I am not aware of all the facts, although it does seem deeply unfair if they are found innocent at a later date, that the Qatari judical system has taken away their freedom, ruined them financially and seperated them from their family for a long time.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Had this taken in place in their home country, the U.S., would they still not have had to spend just as much or even more money to pay the lawyers? Doesn’t make it right, but let’s be realistic, trials just about anywhere in the modern world are very disruptive and time consuming to the people on trial.

MIMH
MIMH
7 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

Yes true but they would have been able to carry on working whole mounting their defence. Here it is the double whammy.

I do agree letting then go back to the US would mean they would never face justice, whether guilty or innocent.

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
7 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

He was provided the opportunity to work here and refused to work. His company was unusually supportive of him compared to most other cases.

Martin
Martin
7 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

Yet in Qatar the cost and disruption seems to be more of an issue for the Villaggio victims families rather than those on actually on trial.
If you have been convicted and decide you are going to appeal the least you can do is turn up to your own hearing. If you can’t be bothered to turn up for those hearings you can’t be serious about the appeal and you don’t respect the justice system in effect you are in contempt of court and should be made to attend or wait in remand

osamaalassiry
osamaalassiry
7 years ago

The reply “she saw a doctor in the US 7 months ago (since we don’t trust any doctors here?)” doesn’t look like it is in their favor…

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
7 years ago

They probably received a lighter sentence precisely BECAUSE they were Americans. Had they had Indonesian or Sri Lankan passports . . .

Abdulaziz Al-Sulaiti
Abdulaziz Al-Sulaiti
7 years ago
Reply to  DavidRSS8

Exactly, yet she’s implying that because of her nationality, she’s facing these legal issues along with her husband.

And if it was an Indian or Nepali…. Well, we don’t need to explain any further.

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
7 years ago

Everyone seems to be pulling the discrimination and racism card nowadays.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago

You actually have to wonder what their sentence would’ve been had they been tried in the U.S.

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
7 years ago

“The couple remains out of prison, but cannot leave Qatar because of a travel ban – a restriction that was not enforced on several of those convicted in the Villaggio manslaughter case, which is also currently before the Court of Appeals.”

And that sums up why expats (and much of the world that pays attention to Qatar) widely believe there is not equality before the law in Qatar.

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
7 years ago
Reply to  DavidRSS8

there is a difference the villagio manslaughter case the convicted wont leave the country and never come back escaping there sentence. the haungs would never face justice the moment they step foot on american soil

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
7 years ago

I agree a there is a difference, and I understand that those convicted should be banned from travel until the sentence is completed or after a successful appeal.

But it also seems that the convicted in the villagio case have no intention of serving their sentences, and are using foreign travel to avoid it. Equality would require a travel ban on them as well.

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
7 years ago
Reply to  DavidRSS8

fair enough, but the travel in the villagio case is a delay tactic for the haungs it would be an actual permanent escape from punishment. i do agree the travel ban should be enforced though

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
7 years ago

wait what? they locked her up in her room because that was “treatment” to prevent her from looking through the garbage for food? umm maybe keep a mini fridge in her room with food so she wouldnt look through garbage

Douglas Gwinn
Douglas Gwinn
7 years ago

Even though I saw the Huangs at my church before they left for Qatar (and my wife spoke with Grace) I find myself agreeing with Mohammed A. here. First of all, it was poor judgment to take children to live in Qatar, but especially children who are adopted and not accustomed to the culture. But when your own child won’t eat and wants to go through garbage cans instead, you’ve got a serious problem, one that is not going to be solved by locking her in her room, with or without Mohammed’s suggested stocked small fridge. If the girl refuses food at the kitchen table, she would probably refrain from partaking from the proposed fridge in her room. Yes, that might be worth trying, but I don’t think it’s a complete solution. The girl had habits that led to her death. Matt & Grace didn’t kill her, but they didn’t provide the environment she needed for healing, if, in fact, such an environment existed. It would require the girl being institutionalized and taught about food, about trusting parents, perhaps about unlearning paranoia, about accepting love…. it would be an enormous undertaking and could not happen in Qatar. The bottom line is that the Huangs should accept responsibility for not doing all they could have done for Gloria. I do see a crime in that, of neglecting one’s own child. Though by this time they ought to be released for time served and be allowed to go home to America, and disallowed to return to Qatar.

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
7 years ago

Yes, that locking up from 8pm to 6am part makes no sense whatsoever.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago

“This is discrimination. Qatar is not a safe place for Americans. Period.” So, the belief is this case would’ve definitely had a different (better) outcome had it taken place in the US! Let’s see now:

There was the case of Christina Corrigan, a 13 years old who had suddenly died while weighing 680lbs and that led to her mother being put on trial for child abuse! And that’s despite the fact that the mother had taken her to many different doctors over the years.

And they’re not wealthy enough, to just get away with it, like, say, Robert H. Richards IV, who has been convicted in a Delaware court of raping his three-year old daughter, and yet was spared prison by court because he would “not fare well” behind bars, according to court documents. He was quickly released on $60,000 bail rather than being required to spend his time cooling his heels where most others being accused of such a disgusting crime would be found—inside a cold jail cell.

David Whitelaw
David Whitelaw
7 years ago

I believe there are several problems here. Matt and Grace are American, but they are also Asian. On top of that, they adopted children from very poor circumstances, who were not of Asian decent and who were not healthy, but require care above that of healthy children.

The circumstances that allowed the young daughter to die are difficult to comprehend for people not used to the way we are taught in the US. Matt and Grace adopted this girl and their sons to provide them with a better life and better care than they could ever have received in their home country.

Matt and Grace are innocent, but proving this to a court that is suspicious by nature is proving difficult.

Douglas Gwinn
Douglas Gwinn
6 years ago
Reply to  David Whitelaw

Bottom line in this case is that the Huangs had no idea what to do with Gloria and her eating disorder. When you have such a serious psychological / emotional / physiological disorder like this which in itself threatens the girl’s life, you don’t take such a desperate girl to a foreign country where there would be little chance of finding her the help she needed. I don’t know what they should have done instead, but I can only say that going to Qatar with Gloria was the first cause of her death. Once that mistake was made, all other decisions of the Huangs to try to help Gloria are doomed to fail, especially locking the girl in her room. Imagine the pain of loneliness Gloria must have felt, the pain of mistakenly sensing that her parents were her enemies, and I’ll say it… the pain of being unable to go out and rummage through garbage cans. That were Gloria’s attempt to find a life (wrong-headed as it was) and to be cut off from that life-line was a disaster for her. Perhaps sensing such defeat, her body shut down. The Huangs didn’t kill her, they simply were unable to help her. This failure, though a crime of neglect, does not necessitate further imprisonment. The Huangs have suffered enough. They should admit their failure to “rescue” their daughter from herself and they should be allowed to go home to America and disallowed to return to Qatar.

David Whitelaw
David Whitelaw
6 years ago
Reply to  Douglas Gwinn

Doug:
Although you bring up several good points. Christians try to help where they can. The failure would have been not to try. Many people give up when they come across impossible situations. The Huangs had help in the US. They were given the opportunity to go to Qatar, not realizing the difficulties they would have in this foreign nation. They may have been Naïve, but they did their best. They are being punished for a problem that was created before the Huang’s adopted her. She would have died years earlier had the Huang’s not adopted her and brought her into their home. See the pictures and how happy Gloria appears. You would have not allowed Gloria that happiness for even the short time she was alive?

Douglas Gwinn
Douglas Gwinn
6 years ago
Reply to  David Whitelaw

Does this mean you approve of locking a sick child in their room in the hopes they will just “get over it”?

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