Duchess of York to face 22 yrs in jail?

Jan 14, 2012, 07:59 IST | Agencies

Court in Turkey to prosecute Sarah Ferguson for secretly filming abandoned orphans in the country

Court in Turkey to prosecute Sarah Ferguson for secretly filming abandoned orphans in the country

The Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson faces 22 years in jail after a Turkish court pressed charges against her for secretly filming in an orphanage.

The charges relate to an undercover documentary Sarah Ferguson made with ITV in 2008 to expose 'appalling' conditions in state run institutions.

A spokesman for the Duchess said, "The Duchess of York has fully co-operated with both the Turkish and British authorities at all times on this issue.

"British ministers refused to accede to the further requests for legal assistance from Turkey. From a UK perspective, the Duchess has been told by the Home Office that the case is closed."

"The action today reported by the Turkish authorities is news to all," said the statement. Yesterday, a court accused Ferguson in absentia of 'going against the law in acquiring footage and violating privacy' of five children. She faces a maximum term of 22 and-a-half years in prison if convicted. No trial date has been set.

"Anywhere else it would be the authorities running these homes who were in the dock," a source close to the Duchess said.

"It was a humanitarian mission, there was no political aspect to it whatsoever. The Turkish Government has no jurisdiction here and the British Government has made clear that she cannot be extradited."

"Sarah is saddened that the Turkish government's actions are being allowed to overshadow a legitimate journalistic investigation into the appalling conditions in state-run orphanages in Turkey."

During the documentary, Duchess and Daughters: Their Secret Mission, Sarah disguised herself with a black wig and a headscarf to visit an orphanage near Ankara.

Footage reveals disabled inmates been tied to their beds by staff unable to cope with them. Others were fed lying down or confined to cots without proper care.

The day after the broadcast, however, the Turkish authorities accused the Duchess of taking part in a politically motivated campaign against their country and of deliberately trying to derail their bid to join the EU.

Nimet Cubukcu, Turkey's minister responsible for child protection, said, "It was known that Sarah was against Turkey's EU bid."

Foreign minister Ali Babacan also criticised the use of hidden cameras, claiming it was 'a breach of privacy'.
A Home Office source said: "As it stands, she will not be extradited. The Turkish authorities have no power to do so."

A spokesman for the department confirmed, "A judge is required to refuse an extradition request if there is no equivalent offence in British law."

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