Qatar Bars U.S. Couple From Leaving After Acquittal

DOHA, Qatar (AP) -

An American couple cleared Sunday by a Qatari appeals court of wrongdoing in the death of their 8-year-old adopted daughter has been barred from leaving the Middle Eastern country just hours after they were told they were free to go.

Matthew and Grace Huang were stopped from exiting the conservative Gulf nation and had their passports confiscated as they tried to pass through airport immigration control in the capital, Doha, said family representative Eric Volz. The unexpected delay adds a new twist to a closely watched legal saga over the death of their adopted daughter, Gloria, that may have stemmed from cultural misunderstandings.

They were met at the airport by U.S. Ambassador Dana Shell Smith, reflecting the intensity of American government interest in the case.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the decision to overturn the conviction, but said the U.S. was “deeply concerned about new delays that have prevented their departure.”

A doctor in Qatar who conducted Gloria’s autopsy determined that dehydration and wasting disease were the cause of death. The Huangs have maintained their innocence and say Gloria suffered from medical problems complicated by unusual eating habits that included periods of binging and self-starvation. Prosecutors alleged she died after being denied food and locked in her room.