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U.S. pair deny murder of adopted daughter at Qatar trial

By Laura Smith-Spark and Riham Sheble, CNN
updated 10:54 AM EST, Wed February 5, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Grace and Matthew Huang deny murdering their adopted daughter, Gloria
  • Prosecutor says they caused her death by failing to seek help when she didn't eat
  • Defense says the Huangs are innocent and had nothing to do with Gloria's death
  • Matthew Huang: "We feel that we have been kidnapped, and we just want to go home"

Doha, Qatar (CNN) -- Final arguments were heard Wednesday in the case of a California couple accused in Qatar of deliberately starving their 8-year-old adopted daughter to death.

Matthew and Grace Huang, who were present in the Doha court, deny charges of murdering their daughter. Gloria, one of three children the couple adopted from Africa, died in January of last year.

A verdict in the case is expected on March 27.

The prosecutor, repeating the arguments he gave in the last hearing in the case, argued that the evidence proved the Huangs had deliberately starved Gloria.

He said that in intentionally neglecting to take the girl to a doctor when they found out she had not eaten for days, the couple caused her death.

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Medical reports presented to the court concluded that the victim died of starvation and that her body was emaciated, he said. He also said that witnesses testified that the girl was locked up in her room as punishment and that she was deprived of food.

The prosecutor also painted a picture of Grace and Matthew Huang as inhumane people who had been cheaply sold their adopted child by her poverty-stricken parents in Africa.

Brother says he saw her eat

Defense lawyer Sami Abou-Sheikha, who asked for an acquittal in the case, insisted on his clients' innocence and said Gloria died of reasons that had nothing to do with her parents' actions.

Referring to the same reports as the prosecutor, he said the girl had an inflamed pancreas and lung, that her stool showed traces of food that was one or two days old, and that her bladder retained liquid.

He also reminded the court that Gloria's brother had testified that he had seen her eat a short while before her death and that she had been playing with her siblings on that day.

The attorney also said that Gloria always had water bottles in her room and, even if not, she had access to water from the bathroom in her room. Gloria also had a history of eating disorders, as shown by medical documents, he said.

Travel ban

The Huangs appealed to the court to lift a travel ban preventing them from leaving Qatar and presented a psychiatrist's report indicating that their two sons were suffering as a result of their long absence. The U.S.-based doctor is overseeing therapy of the boys, who were separated from their parents after their arrest and taken back home with a relative.

Their request to lift the travel ban was denied.

"We have lost our daughter, and our sons have lost their sister," Matthew Huang said outside the courtroom.

"This court has taken more than a year of our lives, and the process has only made it worse. In the midst of our innocence, we feel that we have been kidnapped, and we just want to go home."

U.S. Embassy representatives were also present for the hearing.

READ: Qatar set deadline by FIFA over conditions for migrant workers

Journalist Riham Schebl reported from Doha, and Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London.

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