Turkish scientist gets 15-month sentence for environmental study

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A Turkish food engineer and human rights activist was sentenced yesterday to 15 months in jail after publishing the results of a study he and other scientists had done that linked toxic pollution to a high incidence of cancer in western Turkey, according to an article published on Science Magazine.

Bülent Şık, former deputy director of the Food Safety and Agricultural Research Center at Akdeniz University, was convicted of disclosing classified information after he published the results as a four-part series in a Turkish newspaper in April 2018. “Bülent Şık fulfilled his duty as a citizen and a scientist and he used his right to freedom of expression,” his lawyer, Can Atalay, said in his closing statement before the sentence was handed down by a court in Istanbul.

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 5 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.

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