Sunday, 15 January 2012

Fergie cancels US flight over Turkish extradition fears for covert filming in orphanage

The Duchess of York has cancelled a trip to America amid concerns that she could be extradited to Turkey to face a court case.

Sarah Ferguson was supposed to travel to the United States yesterday but altered her plans at the last minute after a court in the Turkish capital Ankara pressed charges against her for filming in the country without permission.

The Duchess had made an undercover documentary for ITV’s Tonight programme in 2008 in which she investigated allegations of cruelty to children in Turkey’s state-run orphanages.

Duchess And Daughters: Their Secret Mission showed footage of disabled children at an orphanage near Ankara. Some were tied to their beds and others were left in cots all day without being taken out to be fed.

However, the Duchess, 52, did not have a permit to film and has since been accused of breaching the country’s strict press laws.

The office of Turkey’s chief prosecutor announced last Thursday that it was pressing charges against her for ‘violating the privacy’ of five children.

If she is found guilty of the allegation, she could face between seven-and-a-half years and 22-and-a-half years in prison.

A friend of the Duchess told The Mail on Sunday yesterday: ‘Sarah is totally shocked by this because she thought it had gone away. It was, after all, more than three years ago. This has come out of the blue and she is deeply worried.’

Britain has an extradition deal with Turkey under the 1957 Council of Europe Convention on Extradition. However, the Home Office has said that it will not be providing assistance to the Turkish authorities because the Duchess’s actions in exposing poor conditions at the orphanage did not constitute a crime in the UK.

A spokesman said: ‘In this case there is no offence in UK law so there will be no extradition.’

Nevertheless, Prince Andrew’s former wife thinks it is ‘prudent’ to stay in Britain until the matter has been resolved. The Duchess was reported to have spoken to her lawyers about the charges, but last night a friend said: ‘It was her decision to cancel the trip. She didn’t do it on the advice of anyone else.

‘She’s sort of grounded herself until this whole thing is over. She doesn’t want to travel until it gets sorted out.’

The Duchess’s lawyers were said to be working to clarify the position in Turkey in the hope that the charges will be dropped.

For the television documentary, the Duchess disguised herself in a black wig and headscarf as she and her daughter Princess Eugenie accompanied an undercover team investigating the orphans’ living conditions.

The programme provoked an immediate diplomatic row after it was aired, with the Turks accusing the Duchess of trying to smear their country as it awaited a report on its application for membership of the European Union.

Charges were apparently brought against the Duchess and two other members of the production team soon afterwards.

A spokesman for ITV said last night: ‘We were made aware through media reports on Thursday that the issue over charges relating to our programme had arisen again.
‘When charges were originally brought three years ago, we made it clear that we stood firmly by our programme and our position remains unchanged.’

A spokesman for the Duchess refused to comment.
Source: Daily Mail

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