Duchess of York charged by Turkish authorities
Sarah Ferguson examined orphanages in Turkey for a British television program. The secretly filmed images broadcasted showed children tied to their beds or left in cribs. AFP PhotoA Turkish court Jan. 13, 2011, filed charges against Britain’s Duchess of York for secretly filming inside orphanages in the country.
The court accused Sarah Ferguson of going “against the law in acquiring footage and violating privacy” of five children. The court file appeared widely in British media yesterday.
Ferguson, the former wife of Britain’s Prince Andrew, made an undercover trip to Turkey in 2008 to examine orphanages for a British television program. Secretly filmed images broadcasted appeared to show children tied to their beds or left in cribs at an orphanage near the capital, Ankara.
Turkish authorities have asked the British government to help obtain evidence to prosecute the duchess over allegations she breached the privacy of the children living in state-run institutions, the Daily Telegraph reported.
On Jan. 12, the office of Turkey’s chief prosecutor announced it was pressing charges against the duchess for “violating the privacy” of five children. If found guilty, the Duchess of York, 52, could face between 7.5 years and 22.5 years in prison.
The charge was issued in the duchess’ absence and accused her of prying into the private lives of youngsters at the Saray orphanage near Ankara, where more than 700 disabled children are housed.
The Home Office confirmed it had received a request for “mutual legal assistance” from the Turkish government but refused to say whether it would co-operate. However, a ministry source said on Jan 13 that there was no question of the Duchess being extradited to Turkey. “It has to be an offence in both the countries’ laws. It’s not an offence in UK law so the duchess won’t be extradited,” the source told Reuters.
James Henderson, a spokesman for the Duke of York’s former wife, said the duchess had not been informed about the charge by Turkish authorities.
“The duchess is not aware of this. The Turkish authorities have not contacted her,” he said, according to the daily Telegraph.
“It is important to stress the duchess was on a humanitarian trip at the time, and that it was ITV who made the program, not her. I am not aware of what jurisdiction the Turkish authorities have over the duchess. At the time, the British government was asked if it would get involved, and they refused.”
‘Program deliberately coincided with bid for EU membership’
In 2008, the duchess and her youngest daughter Princess Eugenie, 21, accompanied an undercover reporting team to probe living conditions in institutions for abandoned children.
Disguised with a black wig and headscarf, the duchess gained access to the Saray orphanage and obtained footage broadcast on ITV1’s “Tonight” program, which appeared to show children tied to their beds or left in cots all day without being taken out to be fed.
One child, who was not allowed outside, was discovered crawling along the corridor to feel the sun on his face.
In November that year, Nimet Çubukçu, former Turkish minister of state responsible for women and family affairs, claimed the program was deliberately scheduled to coincide with the release of a report on Turkey’s bid for European Union membership.
“It is obvious that with this incident she is trying to put Turkey in the middle of a smear campaign,” she said.
At the time, the duchess insisted the program “Duchess and Daughters: Their Secret Mission” was not politically motivated, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Princess Eugenie was moved to tears after visiting one center that housed 60 disabled children, many abandoned by their parents. “It made me so angry. In the hustle and bustle of a cosmopolitan city, in a popular tourist destination, it is hard to comprehend places like that exist. My eyes have been opened,” she said.