LONDON (Reuters) - There is no prospect of Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, being extradited to Turkey to face criminal charges over her undercover reporting for a TV documentary on Turkish orphanages, a British interior ministry source said on Friday.
Turkey sought Ferguson’s extradition after a Turkish court accused her of “breaking the law in acquiring footage and violating the privacy of five children” while making the documentary in 2008, Turkey’s Anatolian news agency said.
The charges carry a maximum jail term of 22 years six months.
Ferguson, the former wife of Queen Elizabeth’s second son Prince Andrew, posed as a potential charitable donor to visit state orphanages in Turkey and Romania, followed by hidden cameras, to highlight poor conditions at rehabilitation centers for mentally handicapped children.
The documentary, made by British channel ITV’s “Tonight” program, reported cases of children being tied to beds and disabled children being neglected by overworked staff.
Ferguson later apologized for any embarrassment the documentary might have caused Turkey.
Britain’s Home Office (interior ministry) said in a statement “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.”
A ministry source said there was no question of the Duchess being extradited to Turkey. “It has to be an offence in both the countries’ laws. It’s not an offence in UK law so the duchess won’t be extradited,” the source told Reuters.
Asked about the possibility of extradition to Turkey, Ferguson told Reuters in 2009: “I am a human rights activist for children. I’m apolitical and multi-faith. I go with the governments, not against them.
“But I will be a foghorn for silent whisperers if I feel that children are not given the life that they should be given. In other words if they’re in institutions and haven’t even seen the light of day, that doesn’t sit well with me.”
The poor conditions in state orphanages and psychiatric centers in Turkey have been the subject of several domestic and international investigations.
At the time, Turkish officials accused Ferguson of smearing Turkey’s image with the aim of increasing opposition to Ankara’s bid to join the European Union.
Predominantly Muslim Turkey began EU membership negotiations in October 2005, but talks have slowed to a halt because of opposition in some member states and what the EU says is lack of reforms on human rights, freedom of expression and other areas.
Additional reporting by Ibon Villelabeitia in Ankara; editing by Tim Pearce