Girl aged 10 locked in freezer at McDonald's

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The Independent Online

A girl aged 10 was deliberately locked in a deep freezer by staff at a McDonald's restaurant in Istanbul, Turkish prosecutors said yesterday. They are seeking attempted murder charges against two former McDonald's employees.

A girl aged 10 was deliberately locked in a deep freezer by staff at a McDonald's restaurant in Istanbul, Turkish prosecutors said yesterday. They are seeking attempted murder charges against two former McDonald's employees.

Leyla Alkis was trying to sell packets of tissues to customers in the restaurant. The staff are said to have locked her in the deep freeze to discourage her.

Prosecutors said half an hour in the freezer would have been enough to kill her. She survived because customers insisted the staff let her out.

You can see children such as Leyla every day in Istanbul, standing on street corners or wandering into restaurants to sell tissues. Often, they are still on the streets long after midnight, even in the icy winters.

There are an estimated 7,000 street children in the city who have homes but are sent out to work on the streets by desperately poor families. The majority are Kurdish refugees who fled here from the war in the south-east - many of them after Turkish security forces torched their villages.

Initiatives to help the street children have faced severe difficulties from authorities wary of any implied criticism. Those like Leyla are part of a wider problem, which includes children living in gangs - many of whom are addicted to glue-sniffing.

Prosecutors are seeking prison terms of eight to fifteen years for the manager of the McDonald's restaurant and another employee.

The hamburger chain says it has already sacked both employees because of the incident, which it described as "unacceptable".

Prosecutors yesterday refused to comment on the possibility that Leyla's parents may be able to claim compensation. But the couple could face prosecution themselves for sending the girl out to work.

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