Woman tortured by traffickers

A Bulgarian woman who had been smuggled into the country was found by police in Thessaloniki yesterday tied up next to a dog in a stable after having been beaten and sexually abused by the alleged organizers of a human-trafficking operation. Two women and a man, all Bulgarian nationals, were arrested, while police are still searching for two more suspects. Authorities said the 37-year-old victim had been kept in the stable in the village of Adendro, near Thessaloniki, since October last year by the human traffickers who demanded a 3,500-euro transport fee for bringing her into Greece in 2003. «She was dressed in rags. She was in a wretched condition from being tortured and going hungry. She weighed 40 kilos and was not able to stand up. If she had not been found, she would have died,» said local police chief Stergios Apostolidis. The woman had been subjected to various torture techniques, such as being poked with a burning stick or hung upside down for hours on end. She had been originally transported into Greece along with her husband. The two of them had been paying off their debt to the human traffickers by handing over about 80 percent of their daily 25-euro income from working as farmhands. The husband, however, was caught by police and extradited in October last year, while the woman was taken prisoner and locked in the stable. The smugglers demanded the remainder of the transport fee from her husband in Bulgaria and threatened to kidnap the couple’s two children, aged 16 and 11. Greek police launched an investigation after the husband recently reported the incident to local authorities. The three suspects were taken into custody in Thessaloniki and were charged with membership in a criminal gang, abduction, sexual assault, aggravated assault, blackmail and exposing a person to danger. The victim, who was not identified, has been hospitalized.