US Couple Stuck in Qatar After Murder Acquittal Spars with State Dept.

PHOTO: From right, Grace and Matthew Huang walk to their gate with U.S. Ambassador Dana Shell SmithOsama Faisal/AP Photo
From right, Grace and Matthew Huang walk to their gate with U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith, at the Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, Nov. 30, 2014.

The case of Grace and Matthew Huang, an American couple stranded in Qatar after a court there overturned a murder charge against them, took an unusual turn today with the Huangs and the State Department at odds over what was preventing them from leaving the country.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the Huangs’ lawyers had to fill out additional paperwork in order to lift Qatar's travel ban that had been imposed on the Huangs since 2012 when they went on trial for allegedly killing their adopted daughter, Gloria. The couple were initially convicted of murder, but an appeals court on Sunday threw out the conviction.

Despite the acquittal, the Huangs have not been allowed to leave Qatar.

“We obviously weren’t aware of additional paperwork that was required. Obviously that’s something that their legal team is pursuing,” Psaki said.

But the Huangs’ lawyer Eric Volz said he and his team had filled out all the necessary documentation.

“It is important to note that all the proper paperwork has been filed to allow them to leave Qatar. Any statements blaming Matt and Grace for these latest delays are not based in truth,” Volz said.

The Huang’s ordeal began when they found Gloria, whom they adopted from Ghana, Africa, unresponsive in her room. The prosecution alleged that the Huangs starved Gloria to death, while the Huangs contended that she suffered from an eating disorder as a result of her upbringing in Africa.

The case also underscored cultural differences between U.S. and Qatar, as the prosecution against the Huangs originally claimed that because they were Asian-American, they could have only adopted an African child because they wanted to sell her or her body parts.

The State Department has called repeatedly for the Huangs’ release, most recently in a statement noting that an appeals court had found them innocent and that Secretary of State John Kerry called the Qatari Foreign Minister on the Huangs’ behalf Sunday.

The Huangs have two other adopted children who are currently in California. The family had lived in California before moving to Qatar when Matthew Huang got an engineering job related to the World Cup, which Qatar will host in 2022.