Judge voids US Marine's 'forced' adoption of Afghan orphan
A court in Virginia has voided the adoption of an Afghan orphan by a US Marine, more than a year after he took the girl away from her Afghan relatives who were raising her.
The ruling, which took place in Charlottesville on Thursday, was welcome news to the couple who had been raising her before she was taken away for adoption by Marine Major Jonathan Mast and his wife, Stephanie.
The girl, who is nearly four years old, was found following a military raid in a pile of rubble in a rural area of Afghanistan in 2019. She was then brought to a US military hospital, where she spent five months until the
Afghan government and the International Committee of the Red Cross found she had living relatives, and helped unite them.
Mast learned about the girl while she was in the hospital, and decided that he should adopt her. An Associated Press investigation found that Mast became determined to rescue the girl as part of his Christian faith. He falsely claimed that she was the "daughter of terrorists".
In what appeared to be part of their plan to seize the girl, the Masts contacted her guardians in Afghanistan and offered to help with her medical care and help with their evacuation from the country in 2021. Once they arrived in the US, Mast reportedly took the child, and her Afghan relatives have not been with her since.
For now, the girl will stay with the Masts temporarily, though her fate remains uncertain. Another hearing for the case is scheduled for June.
"This ruling is an important first step in reuniting this child with her Afghan family," Edward Ahmed Mitchell, deputy director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a public statement. "We urge the Justice Department to do everything it can to support the attorneys who are working to, as soon as possible, return the child to her family."