Italian police locate Belarusian girl who says she was abused at orphanage

The Associated Press

ROME Italian police on Wednesday found a Belarusian girl hidden for two weeks by an Italian couple after the girl told them she was abused at the orphanage where she lives in Belarus.

The Italian couple, whom the girl was staying with as part of a summer vacation program, defied a court order to send her back to Belarus and hid the girl.

The girl was found early Wednesday in Val D'Aosta, a tiny region in northwestern Italy, where she was staying with the mothers of the two Italians, said Andrea Guglielmi, an official with Genoa carabinieri police.

The girl, identified by her first name, Vika, spent the summer in Italy, as many children from Belarusian orphanages do as part of volunteer efforts to give youngsters good food, sunshine and recreation during vacations from school.

But the girl claimed that she was the victim of severe sexual, physical and mental abuse at the orphanage, according to Giovanni Ricco, a lawyer for the Italian couple.

He said medical examinations in Italy had confirmed the abuse.

Guglielmi said the girl was being taken to a treatment facility in Italy - in accordance with a juvenile court ruling that says the girl must be checked by doctors before she returns home.

Last week, Belarus issued a formal protest to Italian authorities, who have been trying to locate the girl for days.

Nearly 60,000 Belarusian children go abroad every year for health-related rest or treatment or vacations; 25,000 go to Italy, according to official statistics.