Duchess of York faces charges over Turkish orphan film

Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson
Image caption The Duchess made the ITV documentary in 2008

A court in Turkey has said it plans to prosecute the Duchess of York for secretly filming orphans in the country for a television documentary.

Sarah Ferguson visited the orphanage near Ankara while making a film for the ITV Tonight programme in 2008.

The court plans to accuse her of going "against the law in acquiring footage and violating privacy" of five children.

The duchess's spokesman said the development was "news to us all".

BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt said a source close to the duchess had said she had just been trying to run a humanitarian trip and was surprised she was being brought to task when it was ITV that filmed the documentary.

Turkish officials made a formal request to the Home Office for help as they tried to bring a case against her in the past.

Maximum jail term

The duchess's spokesman 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 request for legal assistance from Turkey so from a UK perspective we have been told by the Home Office the case is closed.

"We were told the reasons for refusal were that the minister considered that to provide the assistance requested would have been likely to prejudice the sovereignty, security, ordre public [public order] or other essential interests of the United Kingdom.

"The action today reported by the Turkish authorities is news to all."

The duchess would face a maximum term of more than 22 years in prison if convicted.

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Media captionBBC presenter Chris Rogers, who was part of the team with the duchess, explains why they filmed undercover

The duchess wore a disguise to enter the institution and filmed scenes of children tied to their beds and left in cots all day.

At the time, the Turkish government accused her of being involved in a "smudge campaign" when Turkey was trying to achieve membership of the European Union.

But the duchess, who also filmed orphanages in Romania for the programme, said she was "apolitical" and had gone purely as a mother, and she was "happy with courage to stand by the film".

It is unclear why it has taken over three years for charges to be laid, and no trial date has yet been set.

It is also unknown whether Turkey have made a formal extradition request for the duchess to face charges.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "It is not general UK government practice to comment on individual judicial processes, although we expect high legal and judicial standards to be observed.

"It would be premature and inappropriate to speculate on possible outcomes at this stage."

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