Roma couple charged in Greece with abducting mystery girl: lawyer
ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
A four-year-old girl, found living with a Roma couple in central Greece, is seen in a handout photo distributed by the Greek police and obtained by Reuters October 18, 2013. REUTERS PhotoA Greek court Oct. 21 charged a Roma couple with abducting a mysterious blond girl whose discovery by police has prompted global interest, the lawyer for the accused said.
The court in Larissa, central Greece, ordered the 39-year-old man and 40-year-old woman to be placed in pre-trial detention, the lawyer told AFP.
Police found the blonde-haired, green-eyed girl named Maria in a Roma camp in the central town of Farsala on Wednesday, and the couple was arrested after DNA testing showed they were not related.
While police believe the girl -- dubbed the "blonde angel" by Greek media -- was abducted at birth, the couple claims she was given up by her biological mother because she could not raise her.
"We're talking about a woman who could not raise this child and who gave it to the couple in 2009 through a third party shortly after her birth," a lawyer for the couple, Marietta Palavra, told AFP over the weekend.
"There has been no kidnapping, no robbery, no trafficking," insisted her colleague Konstantinos Katsavos, who also represents the 40-year-old woman and her 39-year-old husband.
"They did not buy the child," he said.
According to the couple's lawyers, the biological mother does not have Greek citizenship.
Greek charity Smile of the Child, who have been looking after Maria, say they have been inundated with calls and emails.
"Until Sunday evening, we had received more than 8,000 calls and thousands of emails," charity spokesman Panagiotis Pardalis told AFP.
He said the organisation's site had received more than 200,000 visits and its Facebook page about half a million.
"It is either families (of missing children) or even unrelated persons (who contact us from abroad), sending us photographs and other information. We forward all the information to the police," he said.
Maria is described as a four-year old, but local media have reported she could be a couple of years older.
"Anything is possible. (Medical) experts will examine her and will try to determine her age and possibly her origin," Pardalis added.
"This case has caused a huge international interest. It has brought to the surface the subject of child trafficking and has given hope to so many parents whose children are missing," he said.
Europe-wide search for Maria's parents
Greek authorities are working with Interpol to trace Maria's biological parents in a Europe-wide search, according to a police source.
The state-run Athens News Agency reported Sunday police were investigating hospitals and childcare agencies for possible child trafficking, suspecting a ring operating between Bulgaria and Greece.
"The police are investigating every possible angle," a spokeswoman at the local Larissa police station told AFP.
In January 2011, police had arrested more than a dozen people in the two neighbouring Balkan countries, for the trafficking of newborn babies to Greece.
The ring arranged for pregnant Bulgarian women, primarily of Roma origin, to give birth in Greece with their babies then sold off in illegal adoption procedures.