More than 600 academics, scientists and rights activists have expressed their solidarity with Turkish food engineer Bülent Şık who was sentenced to 15 months in jail in September after publishing a study that linked toxic pollution to a higher rate of cancer in western Turkey.
A total of 614 people from all over the world, including world-renowned thinkers and scientists such as Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, Bruce Alberts, Nancy Fraser, Elazar Barkan, Eric Wieschaus, Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Jack W. Szostak, Roald Hoffmann and Robert Curl, have signed an open letter slamming the conviction of Şık.
“We, the undersigned, express our solidarity with Dr. Şık who acted as a responsible scientist defending public health. We encourage scientists and academics around the world to condemn the Turkish Ministry of Health and academic institutions in Turkey that deliberately target academic freedom and freedom of speech,” said the letter.
“We ask the (domestic and international) public to stand in solidarity with Dr. Şık and call upon the judges at the Court of Appeals to do what is right and nullify his conviction.”
The signature campaign was initiated on Feb. 18 and came to an end on April 2.
Şık, former deputy director of the Food Safety and Agricultural Research Center at Akdeniz University, was convicted on charges of “disclosing classified information” after publishing the results of his study as a four-part series in Cumhuriyet newspaper in April 2018.
The study was commissioned by Turkey’s Ministry of Health to see whether there was a connection between toxicity in soil, water, and food and the high incidence of cancer in western Turkey.
Working for five years, Şık and a team of scientists discovered dangerous levels of pesticides, heavy metals, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in multiple food and water samples from several provinces in western Turkey. Water in several residential areas was also found to be unsafe for drinking because of lead, aluminum, chrome, and arsenic pollution.
Following the verdict on Sept. 26, 2019, Şık appealed his conviction and is awaiting a hearing at the Court of Appeals.