Southern Californians gathered at a candlelight vigil Thursday to call on the Qatari government to release a Los Angeles couple facing years in prison following the death of their young daughter.
Matthew and Grace Huang were sentenced to three years in prison in March in connection with the January 2013 death of their 8-year-old daughter, Gloria, according to their lawyers. Officials in Qatar, where the family had moved for work, accused the parents of murdering their adopted daughter and obtaining all three of their children through human trafficking, lawyers say. The Huangs have appealed the sentence, but are currently barred from leaving the country.
"Matthew and Grace are innocent," said Joanne Chin, Grace's sister. "They love their kids.They worked so hard to adopt them."
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Eric Volz, a crisis manager, said "the wrongful imprisonment case of Matthew and Grace Huang is just the latest case of a show trial of American citizens being held overseas."
The couple, reportedly convicted of child endangerment, have been unable to return home. Their two sons were initially placed in an orphanage, then sent to stay with their grandparents in Washington, D.C.
"This family lost their daughter, were thrown in prison and had two sons ripped away from them all within a 24-hour period. And then spent eleven months in prison," Volz said.
Relatives blame a culture suspicious of interracial adoptions. They say they never had time to grieve.
"January 15, we find out she passed away," said Daniel Chin, Grace's brother. "And then we find Matt and Grace have been detained. And from there on we find out they're being accused of murder and that they're being suspected of human trafficking."
Activists say the U.S. State Department is aware of the situation, but only Qatar authorities can end this nightmare.
"We want them not to be missing from us," Joanne Chin said. "We want them to be reunited with their kids who need their parents. They're having parents for the first time in their lives."