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Duchess of York faces charges over Turkey children's home film

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 2:18 PM EST, Fri January 13, 2012
  • "We firmly stand by our program," British network ITV says
  • Sarah Ferguson visited the children's home outside Ankara for a 2008 TV documentary
  • "I stand strong in the face of the rights of children," the duchess says
  • The UK Home Office says it has received a request "for mutual legal assistance"

Istanbul (CNN) -- The Duchess of York faces charges in Turkey for going undercover and secretly filming children at a state-run home for a documentary, according to the semiofficial Anatolian news agency.

The Ankara Prosecutor's office accused the Duchess of York of violating the private lives and rights of five children while filming the program for Britain's ITV network, Anatolian reported Thursday.

A hidden camera was used during Sarah Ferguson's visit to the Children's Nurturing and Rehabilitation Center outside Ankara. She wore a disguise of a dark wig and headscarf for the filming.

Opening the case, the Ankara chief prosecutor asked for a prison term of up to 22 years, six months, Turkish state TV reported.

There are no details on when a trial might take place, if at all.

A UK Home Office spokesman said: "It is not our usual policy to comment on individual cases.

"However, the Home Office can confirm it has received a formal request for mutual legal assistance concerning Sarah, Duchess of York. It is not appropriate to comment further."

The Duchess of York said in a statement: "I stand strong in the face of the rights of children, and I remain steadfast. Children are our future."

ITV News spokesman Grant Cunningham said Friday: "ITV was made aware yesterday through media reports of charges related to our program being raised again.

"Charges were raised in 2008 and we said at that time that we firmly stand by our program and our position remains unchanged."

The Duchess was accompanied by one of her two daughters, Princess Eugenie, to film the ITV Tonight program in Turkey.

An ITV press statement at the time of the film's broadcast in 2008 said the duchess, as part of a reporting team, had gone "undercover in one of Turkey's worst institutions -- capturing images that will shock and horrify."

The "hard-hitting" program was intended to "help investigate the treatment of mentally and physically disabled children," ITV said.

The duchess and her other daughter, Beatrice, traveled to Romania to see how state orphanages run for the second half of the program.

Sarah is a former member of the royal family, having been married to Queen Elizabeth II's son, Andrew, Duke of York. The couple divorced in 1996, after 10 years of marriage.

CNN's Max Foster, Talia Kayali, Bharati Naik and Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.

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