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Turkish reality show sparks scandal

  • Story Highlights
  • Police: 8 or 9 young girls, some under 18, were returned to their families
  • Turkish television showed footage of gendarme officers raiding the villa
  • Women were to take part in a Big Brother-style show on the Internet
  • Report: Women signed contracts requiring them to pay fines if they left show
By Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert
CNN
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ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- Were nine attractive young Turkish women duped and imprisoned in a villa by Internet soft-core porn peddlers? Or did they simply call in the police to help them break their contract with an Internet contest similar to the reality TV show "Big Brother"?

A lawyer for the production company, Istanbul Group Electronic Trade Communications and Advertising A.S., is arguing the latter.

In a written statement on the company's Web site, Hilmi Tufan Cakir denied reports published in the Turkish and international media, that nine women were trapped against their will in an Istanbul villa, while cameras sold their images on the Internet.

"My client organized a contest with reward money, contracts were signed with the contestant girls," the lawyer's statement said. "In accordance with the contracts signed by the nine girls, this contest was to be broadcast on the Internet live."

But on Friday, an officer with a Turkish gendarme unit, told CNN that security forces raided the reality show's villa earlier this week, after they received a complaint.

"We detained one person," said the gendarme officer, who asked not to be identified. "There were eight or nine young girls, some younger then 18, who were returned to their families."

Turkish television showed footage of gendarme officers raiding the villa and detaining a suspect earlier this week.

The disputed Web-site is a page of hot pink graphics and photos of scantily clad young women, accompanied by throbbing dance music and the title, "We Are at Home."

It shows video of the villa and its pool, and flashes photos of the nine female "contestants" as well as a list of ratings for viewers, who can vote for their favorite lady via cell phone text message. Audience members were also encouraged to send "virtual gifts" to the contestants, like pink panties, beer, chocolate and a pearl necklace.

Each resident of the house had their own introductory video. The women, dressed in mini-skirts and bikinis, pose by the villa's pool, dance around in revealing outfits, and introduce themselves to the camera.

In one segment, a hostess named Zeynep Karacan, who wears a long dress with a plunging neck line, reads from cue cards, introduces viewers to the house and its residents, who enter one-by-one waving to the camera and carrying luggage.

According to the Web site's rating system, the second most popular contestant was woman from the town of Kocaeli who went by the name "Tugce." Text on the web-page said she was 18-years old, born on September 14th, 1990. But in her on-camera appearance, Tugce tells the audience "I am 16."

She wears a purple bikini by the pool and goes on to say "I came here to be discovered. My biggest dream is to be a model."

In Turkish press reports, the women said they signed contracts requiring them to pay fines of more then $30,000 if they left the show before it completed filming.

This is not the first time scandal has rocked the booming reality TV industry in Turkey.

In 2005, a male contestant from the hit show "Would You Be My Bride?" died of an apparent drug overdose after the season wrapped up production. On that show, mothers helped their sons choose a bride.

The mother of the young man who killed himself, has since gone on to host another reality match-making TV show.

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