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LA couple free to leave Qatar after acquittal in adopted daughter's death

Nearly two years after the death of their adopted daughter in Qatar, Matthew and Grace Huang are free to leave the country.
Nearly two years after the death of their adopted daughter in Qatar, Matthew and Grace Huang are free to leave the country.
Osama Faisal/AP

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Matthew and Grace Huang are free to leave Qatar nearly two years after they were implicated in the death of their adopted daughter.

Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the Los Angeles couple was cleared to travel Wednesday, just days after a Qatari appeals court exonerated the couple in the 2013 death of one of their three adopted children. Kerry laid to rest the Huangs' fears that their acquittal would be appealed in a statement:

The Attorney General of the State of Qatar has informed the U.S. Embassy in Qatar that no further appeal will be filed in the case of Matthew and Grace Huang. At the opening of business on Wednesday December 3, the travel ban will be lifted and Mr. and Mrs. Huang will be free to travel. The United States applauds this decision, and we look forward to seeing the Huangs reunited with their children at home.

The announcement ends a tense diplomatic showdown that began Sunday at the Doha airport. Hours after they were cleared of wrongdoing in court, the couple tried to leave the country while personally escorted by the U.S. ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith, but had their passports removed. They were barred again from exiting on Monday.

After the news about the travel ban being lifted first broke, the Huangs released a cautious statement through the crisis management consultant representing them, Eric Volz of the David House Agency:

Matt and Grace Huang are eager to get home to Los Angeles.  After being found innocent of all charges on Sunday, they have been relying on the US Government to get them out of Qatar.  The delays over the last three days have been difficult.  All the proper paperwork has been filed and any continued delays are a cause for concern.  We ask that the State Department keep up any necessary pressure to ensure Matt and Grace are able to depart tomorrow.

Ambassador Smith tweeted to Volz that she had been working "day and night" to get the travel ban on the Huangs lifted, and Tuesday night in Qatar she said on Twitter she had succeeded.

Qatar's embassy confirmed the news.

"The legal procedure for lifting the ban on travel has been done and they can leave tomorrow," the embassy's media director Ali Al-Hajri told KPCC.

The Huangs have been under a travel ban since they were arrested January 2013 after their 8-year-old daughter Gloria suddenly died. In court, they were accused of starving her to death. The couple said that Gloria had developed an eating disorder while living in a Ghana orphanage in which she would swing between binge eating and self-starvation.

Devout Christians who had moved to Qatar for Matthew Huang's engineering job, the couple have a close-knit church community in Pasadena that has been closely watching their case. During Sunday services, hundreds of members of Lake Avenue Church prayed for the Huangs' return to the US so they could be reunited with their two adopted sons, who are being looked after by extended family.

Pastor Bill Mead said church members have been praying regularly for the Huangs, and have lent financial support through a website set up for the couple, FreeMattandGrace.

This story has been updated.