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live Maria will remain in custody of "The Smile of the Child" as decided by the court in Larissa

14 January 2014 / 15:01:31  GRReporter
4057 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

The court in Larissa decided that Maria, who was found in a Roma camp, should remain in the custody of "The Smile of the Child" foundation over the next two months. It is expected that it will take its final decision on the case on March 18.

The court in Larissa

The trial had been scheduled for 7 January but the defendants of the alleged "parents" requested its postponement, as they wanted their clients to attend it. Their request to be released from custody had not been satisfied and none of them had been present at today's trial, sources told GRReporter. Court sources however claim that Maria’s alleged "father" Christos Sali had been transported from the prison to the courthouse in Larissa by police patrol and he had attended the trial.

The defenders of the Roma family were not in the courtroom either. "My colleague and I did not appear at the court because the course of the trial is procedural since our clients are still in prison," the defender of Maria’s "mother" Eleftheria Dimopoulou (or Selini Sali, she appears with two names in the various documents – author’s note) states for GRReporter.

According to the defenders, the court will announce the decision on the case in about two months. They state that their clients will decide on their subsequent actions depending on whether the court will release them from custody.

In early December, the court had rejected the Roma couple’s request to release them from prison. By law, they are entitled to seek annulment of the measure after two months. According to Greek media, their defenders have already filed a new request to the court to replace the remand measure with the imposition of restrictive measures on their clients, arguing that they had not kidnapped Maria as revealed by the development of the case.

Maria was found in a Roma camp near Farsala last October during a police raid to search for drugs and weapons. The Roma pretending to be her parents are charged with child kidnapping and documentary fraud and are now in prison detention facilities in Larissa and Korydallos.

The case of Maria began on 18 October 2013 when a police announcement that a blond child was found in a Roma camp attracted world interest. For one week, media from different countries showed the picture of "the blond angel" and there were numerous assumptions that the child might have been stolen from her biological parents.

On 21 October, publications in the Greek media stated that Maria was the child of Roma from Bulgaria and that two Roma witnesses had confirmed the information before the investigator.

On 23 October, the Greek online edition Zougla announced that it had established the identity of Maria’s biological mother. The media referred to a witness, close to the Roma family from Farsala, who had stated that the child was born on 31 January 2009 in the hospital in Lamia.

The subsequent check in the hospital found the birth certificate of the girl, which shows that Sashka Russeva had personally declared her birth in the "Civil status" department in Lamia. The interesting thing is that the following text is written by hand over the title of the document: "N.B. the woman is married". In the left bottom corner, one can read the following: "Note: The woman is married although she has stated in the hospital that she is not. She bears her husband’s family name. We expect a court order."

On 25 October, a DNA test proved that little Maria was actually the child of Sashka and Atanas Russevi from the village of Nikolaevo near the city of Stara Zagora.


Meanwhile, immediately after finding the girl at the house of the Roma from Farsala and following a prosecutor's decision, she was placed in the child protection foundation "The Smile of the Child". Its head Kostas Giannopoulos said that Maria was in great health and spirits and enjoyed the care of the psychologists and social workers of the organisation.

The Roma couple, namely Christos Sali and his wife Eleftheria Dimopoulou or Selini Sali, who pretended to be Maria’s parents, were arrested and charged with kidnapping a minor child aged under 14 and with documentary fraud. After appearing before the court the man was sent to custody in Larissa and the woman to Korydallos prison.

In the middle of November, their defenders had filed the first request to release their clients and replace their custody with restrictive measures but the court had rejected it.

A week ago, the defenders of the family requested a postponement of the trial in order for them to be able "to prepare some documents related with the case."

Observers comment for GRReporter that the defenders wanted to delay the consideration of the case as long as possible in order to achieve the removal of the "mother" from Korydallos prison and her transfer to the one in Larissa.

Tags: Crime newsTrialLarissaMariaCustodyRomaThe Smile of the Child
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