October 22, 2013 4:46 pm

Mother gave ‘blond angel’ to Roma family, leader says

The leader of a Greek Roma community spoke out on Tuesday in support of two of its members who have been charged with child abduction in connection to a young girl now known as “the blond angel” who was found during a raid on the camp near Farsala in central Greece last week.

READ MORE: Greek birth certificate probe in ‘Maria’ case 

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The 39-year-old man and 40-year-old woman have been placed in detention pending trial. The couple deny the charges. DNA tests revealed the child, known as Maria, was not related to the couple.

“We don’t sell children, we don’t buy children. We have lots of children of our own” said Babis Dimitriou, who heads the Farsala Roma community. He said the child was left with the family by her biological mother.

Greek police on Monday released photographs of the couple charged with abducting the girl and judicial authorities as an international search for the child’s biological parents intensified.

In this police handout photo taken on Thursday , Oct. 17, 2013, Christos Salis, 39, right, and his companion Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, or Selini Sali — as the woman has two separate sets of identity papers — pose with the little girl only known as “Maria” in the Larisa regional police headquarters, Greece. Police in Greece have released the photographs of a couple alleged adductors of a girl known “Maria” after they were formally taken onto pre-trial custody and an international search for the girl’s parents intensified. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Greek Police)

AP Photo/Greek Police

Authorities also scrambled to uncover fraudulent birth declarations related to possible welfare benefit scams involving the couple and others.

Investigators trying to establish how the girl came to be with the detained Roma couple are considering a range of potential scenarios, from child trafficking to even simple charity — as Dimitriou claims.

Read more: Thousands answer Greek appeal on ‘abducted’ girl

“The child was not abducted. The biological mother left the child at the house, we were waiting for the mother to come again and that’s why all this has happened,” he said.

Police have raided dozens of Gypsy settlements across Greece in the last few weeks — triggering concern by human rights groups that the Gypsy community as a whole was being targeted for an alleged crime involving a few of its members.

Read more: Greek charity: mystery Gypsy camp girl aged 5-6 

© The Associated Press, 2013

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