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US Court Cancels Adoption of Afghan Child by US Marines

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va (Associated Press) — The court in the City of Charlottesville in the United States (US), Thursday (30/3), made a very unusual decision, namely to cancel the adoption of an Afghan war orphan by a US marine.

The Associated Press news agency reported the court ruling issued a year later after the US marine took the girl from the Afghan couple who raised her. However, the future of the child is still hazy.

For the time being, the daughter is still in the care of Marine Major Joshua Mast and his wife, Stephanie. The couple had temporary custody before officially adopting the child.

With that decision, the Mast couple must prove again before the court that they deserve permanent adoption rights.

In the midst of uncertainty, an Afghan couple welcomed the US court’s decision. The Afghan government identified the Afghan couple as relatives of the girl and took care of her for 18 months.

They immediately prostrated themselves outside the courthouse when they heard the verdict. While hugging, the husband wiped away the tears of both of them by using his wife’s hijab cloth.

The Masts couple rushed out of the courthouse after the verdict was announced, accompanied by their lawyers. They are not allowed to comment according to orders.

Adoption disputes

The adoption dispute, which began with investigative coverage by the Associated Press, caught the attention of high-ranking government officials from the White House to the Taliban.

An Associated Press investigation in October revealed how Mast insisted on saving the baby girl and bringing her back to the US. According to the report, Mast carried out the act because of his Christian faith. But until now, the adoption order is still in effect.

“There has never been a case like this before,” said Judge Claude V. Worrell Jr. on Thursday (30/3).

The girl, who is now four years old, was found injured under the rubble after a joint US-Afghan military attack on an Afghan village in 2019. At the time, the girl was still a baby.

He spent more than five months in a US military hospital before the Government of Afghanistan and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) decided he could stay with relatives. The ICRC then reunited the girl with relatives.

Unbeknownst to the Afghan couple, Mast and his wife decide to become parents to the girl. The Masts told Judge Richard Moore in Virginia Circuit Court that the girl was the child of a terrorist who died in combat. Thus, the daughter has no nationality.

Joshua claims the Government of Afghanistan is ready to revoke jurisdiction over the girl. But apparently the Government of Afghanistan never did. Moore then granted the adoption application.

The Masts then contacted the Afghan couple and offered to help with the girl’s medical treatment. After the US military withdrew from Afghanistan and the country fell to the Taliban in 2021, Masts helped the Afghan couple to evacuate to the US. Upon arriving in the US, Mast used an adoption order to take the child and the Afghan couple have not seen the girl since.

In court documents, the Masts said they legally adopted the daughter. They also said the allegations of child abduction by the Afghan couple were “deeply outrageous” and “inappropriate.” The two have repeatedly declined to comment to the AP.

Controversial verdict

Judge Worrell, who took over the case after Judge Moore retired in November, said the Afghan couple were “the girl’s de facto parents when they arrived in the US.” Worrell added that the legal process for the two Afghan couples had been violated.

Worrell also said that the Masts knew some things that they never revealed at trial. Especially regarding the actual events in Afghanistan at the same time a Court in Virginia granted the adoption.

The judge was not sure that it was intentional. But “what is important is that the court did not have all the information that was known to Mast at the time the court’s decision was read.”

The adoption cancellation is a new development in a case that has been drawing attention.

“Once an adoption has been granted, it is very difficult and very rarely is it cancelled,” said Virginia attorney Stanton Phillips.

“This is very, very unusual,” said Barbara Jones, an adoption attorney. “You never heard of this happening.”

A spokesperson for the US Department of Defense said Thursday (30/3), that it was aware of the ruling and referred the AP to the Department of Justice, which declined to comment. The next trial is scheduled to be held in June. [ft/ah]

Source: VOA Indonesia