Ex-Romanian princess Irina on Oregon cockfighting charges

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A police photo of Princess Irina Walker, the daughter of the last king of RomaniaImage source, AP
Image caption,
Irina Walker is the third daughter of Romania's last king, whose family has been living in exile

A former Romanian princess has appeared in court in the US accused of running a cockfighting business.

Prosecutors say Irina Walker, 60, and her husband ran 10 cockfighting events in Oregon in 2012 and 2013.

Blades were attached to the birds' legs, according to the federal indictment, and paying spectators were sold refreshments.

Mrs Walker is the third daughter of King Michael I, Romania's last king who was forced to abdicate in 1947.

She and her husband John Wesley Walker, a former sheriff's deputy, are charged with operating an illegal gambling business and conspiracy to violate the federal Animal Welfare Act.

'Unfortunate event'

The couple are among 18 people charged over the alleged cockfighting business.

King Michael, now 91, was forced to abdicate by the communists in December 1947 and sent into exile.

The royal family, who are distantly related to Queen Victoria, lived in both Switzerland and the UK, running a chicken farm and a carpentry workshop.

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Irina Walker, centre left, attended the opening of an exhibition in Bucharest with her husband, left, and sister in October 2011

A statement on the family's website said the former king noted the charges against his daughter "with deep sorrow".

"His Majesty and the royal family hopes the American justice system and Oregon state courts will settle the case in the fairest and fastest way possible," it said.

"His Majesty also hopes that the presumption of innocence will function... from the beginning to the end of this unfortunate event."

Each of the charges against the couple carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 (187,000 euros, £160,000) fine.

They might also have to forfeit their ranch near the city of Irrigon in the east of Oregon state, according to local media.

Amanda Marshall, United States attorney for the District of Oregon, said: "Besides being a barbaric practice, cockfighting jeopardises public health and safety and facilitates the commission of other criminal acts."