Bulgarian woman takes DNA test in Roma child case

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SOFIA, Bulgaria -- A Roma woman in a remote central Bulgaria town has undergone DNA testing as authorities investigate if she is the mother of a suspected abduction victim in neighboring Greece known as "Maria," whose case has triggered a global search for her real parents.

Sasha Ruseva, 35, had been tested for a match and served with preliminary charges of child selling, but was not detained, Bulgarian authorities said Thursday.

Ms. Ruseva appeared on Bulgarian television after being questioned at a police station in the town of Nikolaevo, 175 miles east of the capital, Sofia, and admitted that she once left a baby behind in Greece while working there, but was not sure if Maria was her daughter.

"I don't know if it's her. How would I know that? I didn't take any money. I just didn't have enough money to feed her," Ms. Ruseva said in the TV interview, which showed pictures of her and her family outside her mud-floored village home on the town's outskirts.

"I intended to go back and take my child home, but, meanwhile, I gave birth to two more kids, so I was not able to go back," Ms. Ruseva said.

The Bulgarian Interior Ministry's chief secretary, Svetlozar Lazarov, said Ms. Ruseva had told police that she had seen televised pictures of a Greek Roma couple who had looked after Maria and recognized them as the same people with whom she had left her child.

A blond-haired and fair-skinned girl aged 5 or 6, Maria was discovered last week near Farsala in central Greece during a police raid on a Gypsy settlement.

DNA tests on the Roma couple revealed that they weren't her parents, and the two were charged with abduction and document fraud. They insist that they were looking after Maria with their own five children after an informally-arranged adoption.

The girl was placed into the care of a children's charity, and her DNA details were provided to Interpol, which has so far failed to match her to any missing children declared in its records, from Poland to the United States.

But the global interest has also raised concerns that news coverage of Maria and actions taken by authorities in the high-profile case are fueling racist sentiment against the Gypsy minority, who number around 6 million in the European Union.

"The long-standing problem of negative media reporting on minorities has vehemently re-emerged with the cases of the children found in Roma families, ... propagating age-old myths portraying Roma as child-abductors," Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, said in a statement.

In the central Romanian town of Sibiu, Dorin Cioaba, an influential Gypsy community leader widely known as the king of the Roma, said the Greek couple's story sounded plausible.


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