The Duchess of York has been charged by a Turkish court over a covert film she made for a documentary about the country’s orphanages. She has been accused of going “against the law in acquiring footage and violating privacy” of five children.
Sarah travelled to Turkey in 2008 to investigate the nation’s state-run orphanages for ITV1′s Tonight programme. Wearing a black wig and a headscarf, she toured the Saray institution near Ankara, where more than 700 disabled children were being housed.
The Duchess found a boy kept in a 5ft (1.5m) high wooden box because, it was claimed, he was hyperactive.
At the time Turkey’s social services called for Sarah to be prosecuted over the secretly made film. Officials from the country have tried in the past to bring a case against her and made a formal request to the Home Office for assistance.
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 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 or other essential interests of the United Kingdom.
“The action today reported by the Turkish authorities is news to all.”
Sarah defended her actions ahead of the programme’s
screening, saying at the time: “I went as a mum, and I went because those children are silent whispers. And quite frankly I’m very happy with courage to stand by that film.”
The duchess was not present when the charges were formally made and it is reported she could face up to 22 years in prison if convicted.
It is not known whether Turkish officials have formally made a request for her extradition to face the allegations. A Home Office spokesman said that as a matter of routine the department did not confirm or deny whether extradition requests had been made.
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.” No trial date has been set.