Turkey court gives Ferguson time to settle -media

Reuters News
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Posted: May 04, 2012 5:44 PM
Turkey court gives Ferguson time to settle -media

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish court trying British duchess Sarah Ferguson for secretly filming the treatment of mentally handicapped children adjourned after opening on Friday to give time for an out-of-court settlement, Turkish media said.

Ferguson, who holds the title Duchess of York as the ex-wife of Britain's Prince Andrew, was not present in court. She signaled when the charges were brought in January that she would not return to face trial. The offences carry a maximum sentence of up to 22 years and six months.

Ferguson had posed as a charitable donor to visit centers for mentally handicapped children in Turkey and Romania, followed by hidden cameras, to highlight poor conditions.

The documentary, made in 2008 by the British channel ITV, reported cases of children being tied to beds and disabled children being neglected by overworked staff.

The prosecution accused Ferguson of violating the privacy of five children, and the heavy sentence was based on the premise that five sentences would run consecutively.

Ferguson's Turkish lawyer, Cansu Sahin, told the Ankara criminal court that the duchess wanted to reach a settlement, the broadcaster CNN Turk reported on its website. Neither the court nor Ferguson or her representatives could be reached for comment.

Ferguson apologized in January for any embarrassment the documentary had caused in Turkey.

Adjourning the case, the court warned Ferguson to attend the next hearing, CNN Turk reported.

The case against Tom Jones and Chris Rogers, filmmakers who had worked with Ferguson on the documentary, was continuing separately, CNN Turk said.

The poor conditions in state orphanages and psychiatric centers in Turkey have been the subject of several domestic and international investigations.

After the program aired, Turkish officials accused Ferguson of smearing Turkey's image with the aim of increasing opposition to its bid to join the European Union.

The predominantly Muslim country 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 in human rights, freedom of expression and other areas.

(Writing by Seltem Iyigun; Editing by Kevin Liffey)