Californian couple Grace and Matthew Huang were found guilty in the death of their adopted eight-year-old daughter Gloria by a judge in Qatar on Thursday, and sentenced to three years in jail.
The verdict further fined each of them over $4,000, and ordered their deportation after the sentence is served, reports CNN. The couple has two weeks to appeal.
"We have just been wrongfully convicted and we feel as if we are being kidnapped by the Qatar judicial system," Matthew Huang said after the trial. "This verdict is wrong and appears to be nothing more a than an effort to save face."
The Huangs arrived in Dubai for Matthew's work as an engineer, on an infrastructure project for the 2022 World Cup. Last December, they were charged with starving Gloria, who died last January. The couple was held for a year without being allowed to give evidence, reports Al Jazeera.
"The prosecutor accused us of trafficking our legally adopted children with the intent of selling their organs. That is how ridiculous this is," stated Huang. "So we are calling on the United States President (Barack) Obama to call the head of state in Qatar."
Starved or sick? US warns of "unfair trial"
The prosecution argued that medical reports were presented to the court, which concluded Gloria died of starvation, adding that witnesses had testified that she was locked in her room and deprived of food.
However, the Huangs' defense lawyer Sami Abou-Sheikha argued the same reports in fact show the girl had an inflamed pancreas and lung, stool showing food traces, and a bladder still retaining liquid, belying the charges of starvation and pointing to disease. He added that Gloria always had access to water bottles in her room, and to water in the bathroom in her room.
Speaking ahead of the verdict, US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said Wednesday "we have been concerned by indications that not all of the evidence was being weighed by the court and that cultural misunderstandings may have been leading to an unfair trial."
The couple's two other adopted sons were allowed to return to the US after their parents were arrested, and currently are staying with family.