Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, faces 22 years in prison for filming Turkish orphanages


Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, is facing up to 22 years in prison after a court in Turkey leveled charges against her for secretly filming state-run orphanages in Istanbul and Ankara. 

Ferguson and her daughter Princess Eugenie accompanied an investigative team from ITV1 in November 2008 as part of a controversial documentary about Turkish orphans, The Telegraph reported

The office of Turkey’s chief prosecutor announced on Thursday that it was pressing charges against the Duchess for “violating the privacy” of five children. If found guilty, the Duchess, 52, could face between seven and a half years and 22 and a half years in prison, according to the Telegraph. 

It remains unclear why Turkey waited three years to press charges. 

More from GlobalPost: Has Turkey turned its back on the West? 

The documentary, which featured footage of children dressed in rags, some of them with shaven heads and tied to beds or left in their cots all day, sparked diplomatic tension between the British and Turkish governments, The Guardian reported. Turkish politicians accused the filmmakers of a launching a smear campaign to derail Turkey's efforts to join the European Union.

The Duchess did not disclose her royal stature in the film, and wore a black wig and head scarf to disguise herself. 

Ferguson, who also covertly filmed in orphanages in Romania, said at the time of the broadcast that she was "apolitical" and was "happy with courage to stand by the film," The Guardian reported. 

Sources told the Telegraph that it was unlikely that the Duchess could be extradited as the offense is not a crime under British law.

“It’s important to stress that the Duchess was on a humanitarian trip at the time, and that it was ITV who made the program, not her," James Henderson, a spokesman for the Duchess, told the Telegraph. “I am not aware of what jurisdiction the Turkish authorities have over the Duchess. At the time, the British government was asked if it would get involved and they refused.”

When it aired, the special had 2.4 million viewers, according to The Guardian. 

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