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L.A. Couple Sentenced To Jail Time In Qatar After Questionable Trial Over Daughter's Heartbreaking Death

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A couple from the San Gabriel Valley are maintaining their innocence after a Qatari court sentenced them to three years in prison for allegedly starving their daughter to death.Qatari Judge Abdaulah Ali Al-Emadi sentenced Matthew and Grace Huang Thursday to three years of prison and a fine of 15,000 Qatar Ryals ($4,100 in U.S. dollars) after prosecution downgraded their initial charge of premeditated murder to murder by negligence, Reuters reported. Though there was no detailed explanation of the charges, Matthew Huang said officials accused the couple of starving their 8-year-old daughter, Gloria, to death in January of 2013 in order to harvest her organs.

Outside the courthouse Thursday, Matthew Huang told reporters:

“We have just been wrongfully convicted and we feel as if we are being kidnapped by the Qatar judicial system. This verdict is wrong and appears to be nothing more a than an effort to save face.”

The couple says their daughter, who was adopted from an orphanage in Ghana in 2009, had an eating disorder stemming from malnourishment in her early childhood. The couple and their three adopted children moved to Qatar in 2012 so that Matthew, who is an engineer, could work on a project for the World Cup, which will be held in that country in 2022.

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The California Innocence Project, a non-profit that works toward freeing people they believe to be wrongfully incarcerated, supports the couple. The site was put up by international crisis agency The David House Agency, which helps Americans they believe have been wrongfully detained in other countries.

According to the California Innocence Project, the Huangs’ sentence was announced without any finding of innocence or guilt. Their director, Justin Brooks, said Thursday:

“The Huangs are 100 percent innocent. 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 case against the couple was unsubstantiated by any evidence. 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.”

Brooks also says there could be racial and cultural misunderstandings by officials in the Muslim country about the Huangs’ situation:

“In the actual police reports, it stated, ‘Why would these Asian parents adopt black children?’”

The Huangs will remain free during the appeal process. The American Embassy is on their side, and the couple are asking President Obama to get involved as well.