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Bulgaria's Interior Announces Roma Girl 'Maria' Match*

Views on BG | October 25, 2013, Friday // 18:12| Views: 1427 | Comments: 0
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Bulgaria: Bulgaria's Interior Announces Roma Girl 'Maria' Match* The young Maria was found living with a Roma couple in Larissa, Greece. Photo by BBC

CNN

DNA from a girl taken by authorities from a Roma couple in Greece matches that of a Bulgarian couple who said they were the parents of the girl, who is known as Maria, the Bulgarian Interior Ministry said Friday.

Greek authorities, suspecting that the blond, blue-eyed girl did not belong to the Roma couple, had seized her. Authorities initially asked questions about Maria because her features didn't appear to be similar to those of the couple, who have darker complexions typical of Roma.

The girl is in the care of the Greek children's charity Smile of the Child, said the group's spokesman, Panagiotis Pardalis.

Greek authorities charged the Roma couple -- Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, and Christos Salis, 39 -- with abducting the child. They appeared in court Monday and were remanded into custody pending trial.

Medical tests showed she wasn't their daughter, authorities have said. Their lawyers said the couple took Maria, believed to be 5 or 6 years old, into their home after her biological mother, who they say was from Bulgaria, was unable to look after her.

On Thursday, a Bulgarian woman came forward to say she left the girl in Greece with a family she worked for in 2009, Bulgarian Interior Ministry General Secretary Svetlozar Lazarov said.

"We gave her, we gifted her, without money," the woman, Sashka Ruseva, told Bulgaria's TV7 on Thursday. "I didn't take any money. I didn't have any food to give to the kid. I saw it yesterday and I've been sick. I haven't eaten since last night."

Residents of the Roma community where the girl lived said the story is true.

"Maria used to play here with the other children and go to the store with her mum; Maria was not hidden away," Maria Kaleas said. "The mother gave her away and Eleftheria was enchanted by Maria's beauty. She shared the food for her own children with Maria."

Roma, who descended from Indian nomads, face widespread discrimination in Europe.

Longstanding prejudice in Greece and elsewhere in Europe depicts them as a people who steal children for forced labor, Amnesty International has said.

Authorities have produced no evidence that that was the case with Maria, although the Greek government news agency raised "the possibility of the existence of a ring bringing pregnant women to Greece from Bulgaria and then taking their children for sale."

The agency cited past reports that empty coffins had been found for infants who supposedly were stillborn to foreign mothers in Athens.

In a separate case, a Greek couple was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of buying a Roma baby from the child's mother, Greek police said Friday.

The suspects, ages 53 and 48, are accused of buying the child in March for 4,000 euros (,510), police said in a statement. They were to appear in court Friday to face charges.

The couple is alleged to have sought the baby because they had no children of their own, police said.

In yet another case involving Roma and children, Irish authorities this week returned a blond, blue-eyed girl to her Roma parents after DNA tests confirmed she is their daughter, a source familiar with the case's legal proceedings told CNN on Wednesday.

Police, acting on a tip, had removed the 7-year-old from a home Monday and placed her in protective care before returning her to her parents.

*The title of the article has been changed by the Editorial Staff of Novinite.com

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Tags: Social Assistance, Stara Zagora, foster home, crisis center, mother, Bulgaria, greece, INTERPOL, joint operation, police, Roma, camp, Gurkovo, Nikolaevo, Makis Triantafyllopoulos, Maria, DNA, Chief Secretary, Bulgarian Interior Ministry, Chief Commissar, Svetozar Lazarov
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