LONDON, UK – The Duchess of York is being tried in her absence in Turkey after an Ankara court levelled charges against her for secretly filming state-run orphanages in Istanbul and the capital.
According to the BBC, Sarah Ferguson is being defended by a Turkish legal team but has declined to go to Ankara for the trial.
She is accused of violating the privacy of five children while filming an undercover documentary on Turkish orphans for UK TV station ITV in 2008.
If found guilty, she could be sentenced to more than 20 years in prison. Her trial could last for several months.
According to Turkey’s Anatolia News Agency, a settlement offer from Ferguson was read out in court on Friday, but was rejected for "failing to meet the court’s conditions."
There is no prospect of Ferguson being extradited to Turkey to face criminal charges there, a British interior ministry source told Reuters earlier this year, and the duchess has made it clear she will not be returning to the country.
The controversial 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 reports.
The Duchess posed as an aid worker in the film, and wore a black wig and head scarf to disguise herself. Turkish politicians accused the filmmakers of a launching a smear campaign to derail Turkey's efforts to join the European Union.
Ferguson has previously apologised for any offence caused by the documentary, but insists that she stands by the documentary’s conclusion that orphans were being ill-treated.
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