This blond, blue-eyed girl, believed to be aged five or six, was found living with a Roma couple in central Greece. Greek police are trying to identify her on suspicion that the child may have been abducted from her parents. Greek Police/Reuters
The leader of a Greek Roma community spoke out 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.
The 39-year-old man and 40-year-old woman have been placed in detention pending trial on charges of abduction and procuring false documents. 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 BabisDimitriou, who heads the FarsalaRoma community. He said the child was left with the family by her biological mother
"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."
Greek police on Monday released photographs of the couple charged with abducting the girl, as an international search for the child's biological parents has intensified.
U.S. authorities aren't pursuing any leads, CBS News reported today. Nor has Interpol found any matches to known cases of missing children.
Authorities in Greece have scrambled to uncover fraudulent birth declarations related to possible welfare benefit scams involving the accused 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.
Police have raided dozens of Roma settlements across Greece in the last few weeks — triggering concern by human rights groups that the Roma community as a whole was being targeted for an alleged crime involving a few of its members.
Residents of Farsala said Tuesday they had seen the blond girl begging.
The Roma settlement lies just behind the town in central Greece. Residents said the Roma regularly beg in town, and they had seen the girl with the woman now accused of her abduction.
"I used to see the mother," said GrigoriaNiokas. "She would come to the square here to beg with the child. At one point, I had asked her how she got such a blond angel. She told me she had conceived it with a blond man."
Another Fasala resident, Vassilis Andreopoulos, added: "Young ones come out to [beg]. They are very young. They come into the coffee shops. Some people give them something, others tell them to go away."