Turkey's social services agency has asked prosecutors to open a case against Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, over her involvement in a British TV programme on Turkish orphanages, an agency spokesman said.

The government has accused Ferguson of smearing Turkey's image in an attempt to harm its European Union membership bid in the undercover documentary, which highlighted poor conditions at rehabilitation centres for mentally handicapped children.

The Turkish Social Services and Child Protection agency filed the complaint with Ankara state prosecutors, the spokesman told Reuters. He did not provide details.

State-run Anatolian news agency said the complaint accused Ferguson and two members of the TV crew of "unlawfully obtaining footage" and "intrusion into private life". Poor conditions in Turkish orphanages have been highlighted in the past by human rights groups. The European Union has repeatedly raised concerns over human rights in Turkey as a major obstacle to its bid for membership of the bloc.

In the programme Ferguson, former wife of the second son of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, poses as a potential charitable donor as she visits state orphanages in Turkey and Romania followed by a hidden camera.

The programme reported evidence of children being tied to beds and disabled children being neglected by overworked staff.

Foreign Minister Ali Babacan has said Turkey has launched an inquiry into the allegations made in the documentary and anyone responsible for misconduct would be charged. He said Turkey regretted the approach used by the programme makers.

A spokesman for ITV's "Tonight" programme, which made the documentary, has said going undercover and filming secretly was fully justified. Ferguson has apologised for any embarrassment the documentary may have caused Turkey.

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