Afghan Couple Sues: US Marine Stole Our Baby

US court granted Joshua Mast custody of a foreign citizen, whose relatives allege fraud
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 20, 2022 11:04 AM CDT
Afghan Couple Sues: US Marine Stole Our Baby
Hundreds of people gather near a US Air Force C-17 transport plane at the perimeter of the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 16, 2021. An Afghan couple who arrived in the US as refugees are suing a US Marine and his wife for allegedly abducting their baby.   (AP Photo/Shekib Rahmani, File)

US Marine Corps attorney Joshua Mast and his wife, Stephanie, say they "acted admirably" in adopting a young war orphan from Afghanistan. But an Afghan couple tells a very different story, saying Mast stole the child—a relative they gained custody of after her parents and siblings were killed in a US Special Forces raid, per the AP. In a lawsuit filed last month, the child's cousin and his wife, now living in Texas, claim Mast urged the couple to fly to the US so the girl, who'd spent months in a US military hospital, could receive further medical treatment there. But as they arrived at an airport in Washington, DC, in August 2021, Mast allegedly presented an Afghan passport for the child that stated Mast as her surname. Five days later, they say Mast—custody papers in hand—took her away.

Letters, emails, and documents submitted in federal filings show that he used his status in the US armed forces, appealed to high-ranking Trump administration officials, and turned to small-town courts to adopt the baby, unbeknownst to the Afghan couple raising her 7,000 miles away. The little girl, now 3 1/2 years old, is at the center of a high-stakes tangle of at least four court cases, with the Afghan couple—who've asked the court to shield their identity out of concerns for their relatives back in Afghanistan—desperate for the return of the girl, whom they haven't seen since that day more than a year ago. "After they took her, our tears never stop," says the woman, who was hospitalized after contemplating suicide. "Right now, we are just dead bodies. Our hearts are broken."

The couple accuses the Masts of false imprisonment, conspiracy, fraud, and assault. Under Islamic law, a child's bloodline cannot be severed and their heritage is sacred. As a result, American adoptions from Afghanistan are rare and only possible for Muslim American families of Afghan descent. But the Masts insist they're the legal parents of the child and have asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit. They argue they've worked "to protect the child from physical, mental, or emotional harm" and cast doubt on whether the Afghans are even related to the baby. For much more on the case, which has drawn in the US departments of Defense, Justice, and State and is now being debated in secret proceedings in a locked courtroom in Palmyra, Va., click here. (More Afghanistan stories.)

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