Duchess of York seeks to settle Turkish charges out of court

ANKARA: The trial of Britain's Duchess of York over her role in the secret filming of two orphanages in Turkey has been adjourned so the plaintiffs can evaluate an out-of-court settlement, Turkey's state-run news agency says.

Sarah Ferguson faces charges of going ''against the law in acquiring footage and violating privacy'' of five children at one of the orphanages, the Anadolu Agency said. If convicted, she could receive a maximum sentence of 22½ years in prison.

The trial began on Friday; the duchess did not attend.

The Duchess of York, the former wife of Prince Andrew, made an undercover trip to Turkey, in 2008 during which she secretly visited the two state-run orphanages along with two British television journalists. An indictment filed against her in January said the two journalists were being separately investigated.

Five children were filmed at the Saray Rehabilitation and Care Centre orphanage, near Ankara, on September 22, 2008. The footage was shown that year on the British ITV program Duchess and Daughters: Their Secret Mission. The images appeared to show the children tied to their beds or left in cots.

The government accused the duchess of smearing Turkey's image, while saying it would address any problems at the orphanages.


The news agency quoted her lawyer, Cansu Sahin, as saying the duchess was seeking an out-of-court settlement. On Friday, the court told the lawyer that she should attend the next hearing, Anadolu reported.

A lawyer representing the five children and Turkey's Family and Social Policies Ministry, Canan Yildiz, said her clients have been ''harmed'' and would like to join the prosecution against the duchess.

The court agreed to hear testimony from the five children who were filmed, but their lawyer said some of them are mentally disabled and others are physically handicapped, and that it would be better if their testimony was taken at the orphanage.

Anadolu did not say when the trial would resume.

One reason the case angered Turkey is that it emerged during the country's long-standing effort to become a member of the European Union.

Associated Press