Jail sentence sought for academic who wrote column revealing carcinogens

Turkish prosecutors are pushing for a jail sentence of between five and 12 years for a food scientist whose column revealed cancer-causing products in Turkey.

Bülent Şık, a  wrote a series of articles beginning in April 2018 for secularist newspaper Cumhuriyet that promised to list “cancer-causing products hidden by the state.”

The articles relied on findings of studies by researchers from Turkish universities and the health ministry that revealed high levels of carcinogens chemicals in the environment of the Ergene River basin in northwest Turkey.

The charge sheet against Şık accused him of revealing classified information in order to cause public unrest.

The information he revealed included details from the report showing that the level of carcinogens in Kırklareli, Tekirdağ and Edirne, three cities in the vicinity of the Ergene basic, had reached dangerous levels of environmental pollution, with a high build up of heavy metals, pesticides and other toxic substances tainting the water supply.

Şık's lawyer has said none of the information he had conveyed in his column was classified, adding that environmental rights were enshrined in the Turkish constitution.

Şık, a former academic at Akdeniz University, had assisted in organising, analysing and reporting the project’s research into food and water. In November 2016 he became one of thousands of public workers to be dismissed from their jobs by emergency decree in the purges that followed the failed July 2016 coup attempt. He was dismissed for signing a peace petition that criticised the government's anti-insurgency policies in January 2016.