Judge annuls US Navy adoption of Afghan war orphan

The couple must now prove again in court that they should be granted a permanent adoption.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — In a highly unusual ruling, a state court judge on Thursday annulled a U.S. Marine’s adoption of an Afghan war orphan, more than a year after he took the little girl from the Afghan couple who raised her. But their future remains uncertain.

For now, the child will remain with Marine Maj. Joshua Mast and his wife Stephanie, under a temporary custody order they received prior to the adoption. The masts will have to prove again in court that they should be granted permanent adoption.

Despite the uncertainty, the verdict was a welcome step for the Afghan couple, who were identified by the Afghan government as relatives of the child in February 2020 and who had raised the child for 18 months. They fell on their knees in prayer outside the courthouse. As they held on, the young man wiped the tears from their eyes with his wife’s headscarf.

The Masts quickly exited the courthouse after Thursday’s hearing, flanked by their attorneys. The parties are prohibited from expressing themselves by being muzzled.

The dispute then sparked alarm at the highest levels of government, from the White House to the Taliban an investigation by the Associated Press in October revealed how Mast was determined to save the baby and bring her home as an act of Christian faith. But for now, the adoption order has remained in effect.

“There has never been a case like this,” Judge Claude V. Worrell Jr. said Thursday.

The girl, who will turn 4 this summer, was a toddler when she was found injured in the rubble after a US-Afghan military attack in a rural part of the country in September 2019. She spent more than five months in a US military hospital before the Afghan government and the International Committee of the Red Cross determined that she had surviving relatives and reunited her with them.

Unbeknownst to her, Mast found out about the baby while she was in the hospital and decided that he and his wife should be her parents. The Masts told Virginia Circuit Court Judge Richard Moore that she was the daughter of transient terrorists who died in combat and was therefore a stateless orphan. He claimed that the Afghan government is willing to relinquish jurisdiction over them, although it has never done so. Moore granted him the adoption.

The Masts contacted the couple in Afghanistan and offered to help with their medical treatment. After the US military withdrew and Afghanistan fell to the Taliban in 2021, the Masts helped them evacuate to the United States. When they arrived, Mast used the adoption warrant to take the child and the Afghan couple have not seen her since.

The Masts claim in court filings that they legally adopted the child and that the Afghan couple’s allegations of kidnapping are “outrageous” and “undeserved.” You have repeatedly declined to comment to AP.

Judge Worrell, who took over the case after Judge Moore retired in November, said the Afghan couple “were the de facto parents when they arrived in the US” and their due process was violated. Worrell also testified from the bench that the Masts knew things they never told the court, particularly about what happened in Afghanistan when the Virginia judge approved the adoption. He said he wasn’t sure if it was intentional, but “the fact is that the court didn’t have all the information that was known (to the masts) at the time the order was entered.”

The ruling is another twist in an already outstanding case.

“Once an adoption is final, it is extremely difficult and rare for it to be reversed,” Virginia Attorney Stanton Phillips said.

“This is really, really unusual,” said adoption attorney Barbara Jones. “You just don’t hear about it.”

A Defense Department spokesman said Thursday it was aware of the ruling and referred the AP to the Justice Department, which declined to comment. Another hearing is scheduled for June.

https://www.kvue.com/article/news/nation-world/us-marine-adoption-afghan-war-orphan-voided/507-4b058aa9-17ec-41db-89b5-0b33ef4dac4b Judge annuls US Navy adoption of Afghan war orphan

Related Articles

Back to top button