Turkey charges Duchess of York over undercover TV documentary
A Turkish court is going after Sarah Ferguson over a three-year-old documentary about the life of orphans in that country.
The Duchess disguised herself (right) on the trip so she could expose the conditions inside state-run orphanages for abandoned and disabled children. Her own children, Beatrice and Eugenie, joined their mother on parts of the mission.
The Duchess, wearning a wig and head scarf, posed as a potential donor in order to get inside one orphanage near Ankara. Chris Rogers, a reporter for the documentary, said the institution that housed 700 children had "a terrible stench of urine, sweat and vomit."
Ferguson is accused of violating the privacy of five children who were filmed with a hidden camera. If convicted, the 52-year-old Duchess faces from seven to 22 1/2 years in prison.
It is not clear why Turkish authorities have waited three years to raise the charges, or if they have requested extradition from the British government. Officials in the UK have confirmed that Turkey has requested "mutual legal assistance," but it appears unlikely they would co-operate with an extradition.
When the show "Duchess and Daughters: Their Secret Mission" was first aired on ITV, Turkey immediately went on the offensive, saying the former wife of Prince Andrew had launched "smudge campaign" against the country. At that time, Britain turned down a request by Turkey for her extradtion.
However, correspondence revealed by Wikileaks show that UK officials were desperate to smooth diplomatic relations. One cable noted that David Miliband, foreign secretary at the time, told Turkish officials that Ferguson could "not be contolled" since she was no longer a member of the Royal Family.
A source told BBC that the Duchess was surprised by the charges since it was ITV that filmed the documentary and she regarded the venture as a humanitarian trip.
The Duchess has had a long association with children's charities, including Children in Crisis. She has also had a long history of controversy in her private life. In 2010, she was filmed offering an undercover reporter, posing as a businessman, access to Prince Andrew for $780,000 (500,000 pounds).