TURKEY

Writer confesses to crime but doubts remain

WRITER CONFESSES TO CRIME BUT DOUBTS REMAIN

Emrah Serbes, a writer who became popular with his crime fiction series, is both a hero and an antagonist nowadays. His confession about a fatal car crash he initially caused has engendered sympathy for the 36-year-old who was once described as the "enfant terrible" of new Turkish fiction for his politically-charged works and remarks as well as his controversial support for the 2013 Istanbul Gezi Park protests. Nevertheless, the timing of the confession, which went viral after he shared a confession letter on his social media account, made people question if he is genuine in his confession that came long after the crash.

"If you had lived in Dostoyevsky's time, you would not read him because he was a gambler. You have to forget the personal lives of the writers. You should not take what writers say that serious. The history of literature is full of terrible men who wrote magnificent works," Serbes, the creator of popular TV show "Behzat Ç," based on his works, shared on his Facebook account five years ago upon arguments from readers who judge an author's work through his/her personal life. Nowadays, he is in the same situation as he has become involved in a crime. Is he now ironically one of those terrible men who wrote magnificent works?

Last Friday on Sept. 22, a car accident occurred on the highway between the cities of İzmir and Aydın, in the Aegean part of the Turkey. Ayhan Özçelik, 59, and his daughter Zeynep Özçelik, 16, died at the scene while his wife Nilgün Özçelik, 51, was severely injured. The driver who hit the car of the Özçelik family was said to be Kenan Doğru while Serbes was allegedly traveling in the front passenger seat. Serbes' name had not been mentioned in the news regarding the accident until a few days ago. Kenan Doğru was arrested by the local police right after the accident while Serbes testified as an eyewitness. However, it turned out a few days later that it was nothing but a shocking story just as in Serbes's much-read crime novels: The driver was indeed Serbes and his friend Doğru took the blame and played the driver that night "for the good of" his old friend. Serbes even gave a testimony right after the accident in which he feigned innocence and acted as a shocked eyewitness, saying, "The car suddenly came out in front of us. Kenan tried to maneuver but he could not succeed. We crashed into the car and the barriers and were dragged. We rolled over two or three times. After we managed to get out of the car, we checked each other, we were injured. We called the police and an ambulance. I could not recall the speed of the car."

The prosecutor of the case, however, found the author's statements suspicious and claimed that more investigation was needed through blood and hair samples from the car. Just before the police shared the recent evidence about the ongoing investigation, Serbes took a step forward and shared a confession on his Twitter account on Sept. 28, six days after the accident.

Writing with an excessive declaration of remorse, Serbes admitted that his friend Doğru was not responsible for the accident, but rather, he was. Although he said, "nothing is more valuable than a life of a young girl," it became clear that he did not call for an ambulance at the time of accident, stated Burcu Ece Güler, the Özçelik family's attorney, as a result of further investigation. Although Serbes moved on with a confession that he could "not undertake the crime at the time of the accident," to express his silence for a few days, his expressions have caused quite a stir in Turkish society as many, especially the acquaintances of the family, have thought that Serbes is not regretful and only shared the declaration just to have his sentence term shortened term or even get rid of speculations that he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol while driving.

Güler said in her statement to the Hürriyet daily:

"The accident was considered an unfortunate fate at the beginning, however, the examination of accident reports and evidence were already leading the investigation toward Emrah Serbes. There were barriers on the road where the accident happened but those cannot cause such an accident. Furthermore, the speed level of the car Emrah Serbes drove was unacceptable on that road. Emrah Serbes made a scenario - like confessing just when he most probably would get caught. We do not want his confession to be conceived as heroic behavior. Now that Emrah Serbes has been arrested, the family can finally take care of the mother's, Nilgün Özçelik's, health."

Giving a testimony, Özçelik's son Ahmet Mert Özçelik rejected Serbes's statements and said: "Alleged criminal Emrah Serbes lies on the facts about the accident in order to save himself. I want him to get the rightful penalty because what he did caused my father and sister to die and my mother to be injured." Due to his mother being in the intensive care unit and unable to give a testimony, Ahmet Mert decided to press charges again Emrah Serbes on behalf of both himself and his mother.

While there are very few people who see Serbes's confession as a conscientious act, only time will tell the reason behind his confession. The question of whether he confessed because of inner conflicts or making up a story in order to save himself will soon come to light. One thing is for sure at the moment: Writers should not be considered independent from their personal lives especially if they have an influence over the young generation through their work. It is a conundrum for everyone to answer how it can be entirely possible for writers, especially those who write crime novels, to stay out of the fiction they create.

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