Greek Roma couple cleared in bombshell child-snatching case

Greek Roma couple cleared in bombshell child-snatching case

A Greek court on Monday dropped child-snatching charges against a Roma couple at the centre of a media frenzy in 2013 when a little blonde girl named Maria was found in their camp.

The court in the central city of Larissa said it had insufficient evidence to further prosecute Christos Salis and his wife Eleftheria Dimopoulou, the state agency ANA said.

The couple did however receive suspended prison sentences for making a false statement to authorities about the girl's parentage.

Four-year-old Maria made international headlines in 2013 when she was found living with the Roma couple who were not her parents in the Greek town of Farsala.

The girl was thought to be an abducted western European child until the Greek and Bulgarian authorities tracked down her real parents in Bulgaria, in a ghetto in the central town of Nikolaevo.

Sasha and Atanas Rusev admitted abandoning the girl as a seven-month-old baby in Greece in 2009, during a stay for seasonal work, because they were too poor to look after her.

Today Maria remains in the care of Athens-based charity Smile of the Child.

Bulgaria’s Roma minority is estimated at about 700,000 people or nine per cent of the population, with many living in miserable conditions.

Illegal adoption, in some cases involving trafficked children, has flourished in Greece, where birth rates are low and official adoption procedures gruelling.

There are dozens of pending cases on the trading of minors and illegal adoptions in Greece, some of them implicating doctors and private clinics, according to the justice ministry.


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