An Istanbul appeals court has overturned the 15-month jail sentence handed down to food engineer Bülent Şık who was convicted in 2019 for publishing a study that linked toxic pollution to a higher rate of cancer in western Turkey, online news portal Diken reported on April 29.
The Istanbul Regional Courts of Justice said that Şık's study could not be classified a “confidential document” and that the Health Ministry itself had the responsibility to reveal the information included in such an academic work.
In September 2019, the Istanbul 2nd Penal Court of First Instance sentenced Şık, former deputy director of the Food Safety and Agricultural Research Center at Akdeniz University, to 15 months in jail on charges of “disclosing classified information.”
The case against Şık was launched after he published the results of his study as a four-part series in Cumhuriyet newspaper in April 2018.
The study was commissioned by the Turkish Health Ministry 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.