A California couple living in Qatar was sentenced to three years in prison Thursday for the starvation death of their adopted 8-year-old daughter.
The Qatari medical examiner ruled that Gloria Huang, 8, died of starvation and dehydration on Jan. 15, 2012.
Her adopted parents, Matthew and Grace Huang, who have two other adopted children from Africa, were arrested. Authorities accused the couple of starving Gloria with the intention of selling her organs and detained them in the capital of Doha for 11 months.
An attorney for the Huangs says the 8-year-old had an eating disorder. She allegedly went days without eating and would then binge on junk food or even items from the garbage. They claim she would take food and hide it in her room.
The Huangs moved to Qatar from San Gabriel Valley to help ready the nation for the 2022 World Cup. Matthew is an engineer, working to improve the sewage and water system ahead of the games.
Some accused Qatar authorities of racism, citing deep-rooted prejudice against interracial families. Interracial adoption is very rare in the country.
"One of the very real problems of this case is that Qatar officials looking at it absolutely don't understand how an Asian American couple could adopt a special-needs African American child," Richard Grenell, spokesman for the Los Angeles-based crisis group David House Agency, told the Los Angeles Times.
"Right from Day 1, all these bizarre conclusions are being drawn about the family," said Justin Brooks, director of the California Innocence Project, which is also working on the case. "This case is so shockingly outrageous."
Brooks says the Doha police report said the couple had adopted "ugly black children."
"That's what it actually said,” he added.
The Huangs will appeal the verdict.
"It's been more than a year since they've hugged their kids," Grenell said of the Huangs. "I don't know how they're going to tell their sons they won't be able to see them for three years."
Grace Huang’s mother, who lives in Washington state, has custody of both of her grandsons. Gloria’s body was buried in California.
"The Qatar system is not a rational system," Grenell said. "The elites who are in charge of Qatar get to decide what the process is.”
In 2011, FIFA general secretary, Jérôme Valcke, hinted that the 2022 World Cup was “bought” by Qatar, a small country grossly unprepared for the number of visitors that the games drawn in that has extreme desert heat. The games are always held during the summer because players participate in club games throughout the world during the winter and spring.