Five members of a family, whose bizarre story allegedly under influence of their son-in-law glued millions to screens last year, appeared before a court yesterday on charges of murder and theft.
The Palu family, who made appearances on a reality TV show for missing persons, had accused Tuncer Ustael of killing Meryem Tahnal and Melike Tahnal, daughter and granddaughter of family patriarch Harun Palu, the sole member of the family not charged with any crime.
They had accused Ustael of manipulating them by "jinns," supernatural beings according to traditional Islamic belief, and stealing their money by threatening them. Ustael and his wife Emine had denied accusations in a series of TV shows watched by millions and went viral online for strange revelations by the family members. In yesterday's hearing in Kocaeli where the family lived, Meryem Tahnal's sister also accused Ustael of raping her.
Prosecutors ask prison terms for Ustael for holding Tahnal captive, torturing her to death and stealing her money. Other family members are accused of aiding and abetting Ustael. Ustael denied accusations in the first hearing and blamed the victim's mother-in-law for the murder. He dismissed claims that he threatened the family by "jinns." The victim's mother Havva Palu contradicted him and said the whole family was under the influence of Ustael and did whatever he told them and turned a blind eye to his multiple beatings of Meryem Tahnal. "He scared us by saying he would unleash jinns upon us if we didn't do what he said. We gave him money whenever he wanted. One day, he ordered us to leave our house and live in a car with him, claiming the protection from jinns," Palu told the court, claiming she used to hear "noises" from the roof of her house, pointing to "jinns." She said Meryem was living in the car with them too and they found her corpse one day, claiming Ustael beat the woman severely prior to the discovery of her body. She said her son İsa helped Ustael to bury Meryem and Ustael ordered them not to tell the police. Other family members, including İsa and his brother Fatih, corroborated their mother's testimony. Havva Palu's other daughter Ayşe Palu said Ustael once had "intercourse" with her, claiming he would "exorcize her jinns." "He always threatened us with jinns and we had to do whatever he told us to do so for fear of jinns," Ayşe Palu said.
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