FARSALA, Greece, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- A Roma couple in Greece arrested for allegedly kidnapping a young girl said they took the child in as an "act of charity."
Christos Salis, 44, and his wife, Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 45, have been charged with child abduction and forgery after police raided their camp in central Greece and found the couple in custody of a young girl dubbed Maria. Salis and Dimopopulou both have typically Greek olive skin and dark features. Police became suspicious when they said the girl was theirs because she has light skin, blond hair and green eyes -- in contrast with Salis and Dimopoulou, who have typically Grecian olive skin and dark hair. DNA tests prove the pair were not the child's biological parents, ekathimerini.com reported Monday.
Police called for Maria's parents to come forward for DNA testing to determine her parentage, the British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph reported.
The couple charged said the Maria, believed to be 5 or 6, is of Bulgarian descent and a middle man from Bulgaria visited the camp and asked them to care for the girl just a few weeks after she was born. The reason and relationship between Maria's parents and the Roma encampment aren't clear, The Daily Telegraph said.
The couple's attorney said while the adoption wasn't legal, it denied it was criminal in intent.
"There has been no kidnapping, no robbery, no trafficking," Constantinos Katsavos, one of the lawyers representing Salis, said after a court hearing Monday. "It was an adoption that was not exactly legal but it took place with the mother's consent."
The girl was found last week during a raid in Farsala, Greece.
Police have published photos of the couple and the girl in the hope that it will help locate Maria's parents.
Police said Dimopoulou has claimed to have given birth to 14 children over the last few years, prompting an investigation into whether the couple was involved in a child smuggling ring.
Babis Dimitriou, chairman of the Farsala village Roma association, told The Daily Telegraph verified the couple's story and said the girl was being well taken care of.
"The family raised the child as if it was their own although her father would come back every now and then to see her. The last time he visited was only five days ago, after the arrests had been made," he said.