Greek Roma couple found not guilty of abduction of girl

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A Roma woman walks next to a Roma settlement in Farsala, central Greece, on October 21, 2013, where a young girl reportedly named Maria, was found living with a Roma couple.

A Roma woman walks next to a Roma settlement in Farsala, central Greece, on October 21, 2013, where a young girl reportedly named Maria, was found living with a Roma couple.

ATHENS - A Greek Roma couple, who attracted local and international media attention two years ago when police found that a girl living with them was not their biological child, was found not guilty of abduction on Monday.

Eleftheria Dimopoulou and Christos Sallis were sentenced by a court in the central Greece city of Larissa to 48 months and 18 months in prison respectively, only for forgery of documents.

(A handout photo by Greek police shows Christos Sali, a Roma man and his wife Selini Sali. The couple was with abducting a young girl dubbed the "blonde angel" (C), whose discovery has prompted thousands of calls from parents of missing children. Image: AFP)

The couple was arrested in the autumn of 2013 in a case that shocked Greek society.

During a routine survey at a Roma camp near the city of Larissa, police officers noticed a blue-eyed, blonde-haired girl unlike the couple posing as her parents.

(Pictured: Handout photo released by Greek Police on October 18, 2013 shows an unidentified 4-year-old blonde girl whom was found on October 17, 2013 near Farsala in central Greece during a nationwide crackdown on illegal activities by Roma. Image: AFP PHOTO / GREEK POLICE)

After a thorough check into documents and DNA tests, it was found that the then four-year child named Maria was not related to the 40-year-old woman and the 39-year-old man who were raising her and claiming benefits from the state.

Maria’s biological parents, also Romas, were eventually traced in Bulgaria after an international search.

(Sasha and Atanas Ruseva pictured on October 24, 2013 with one of their children in the Roma district of the central Bulgarian town of Nikolaevo. DNA tests confirmed that they are the biological parents of Maria, the blonde girl found in a Greek Roma camp. Image: BGNES / AFP)

The case drew attention to the problematic integration of Romas in Greece and Europe.

Both Roma couples vied for custody, but Maria was taken care of by Greek social services.

(A picture taken on October 24, 2013, shows three of the children of Sasha Ruseva and Atanas Rusev in front of their home in the Roma district of the central Bulgarian town of Nikolaevo. Image: NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV / AFP)

Dimopoulou and Sallis claimed that the child was willfully handed over to them when she was just a few months old by her biological mother who was working in Greece at the time.

Maria currently lives in a children’s shelter home and has started school.

Psychologists say she is gradually recovering from her traumas.

- via Xinhua