Bülent Şık, a food engineer and an environment and human rights activist, was accused of “Disclosure of Confidential Information in Respect of a Duty” and was sentenced to a year and 3 months imprisonment.
Şık received his PhD on environment-friendly food analysis techniques, and between the years 1990-2009, he worked in various laboratories of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock. In 2009, he left his post to work for Akdeniz University as a lecturer. He served as the deputy technical director of the Center for Food Security and Agricultural Research, at the same university. He focused on food security, residual analysis of toxic chemical substances and environment friendly applications of chemistry.
He served on a five year long (2011-2016) Ministry of Health Project (Evaluating the Environmental Factors and Their Effects on Health in the Provinces of Kocaeli, Antalya, Tekirdağ, Edirne, Kırklareli). The project was investigating the possible correlation between the rising number of cancer cases in western Turkey and soil, air, water pollution. The results of this study revealed that the pollution levels found in food and water samples were of toxic levels. Pesticides, heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon were found in many samples. In some residential areas, the water was found not safe for drinking due to high lead, aluminum, chrome and arsenic levels.
He was fired from his position with the presidential decree 677 in November 2016. He was working as an assistant professor at the university when he signed the Academics for Peace declaration.
He published the results of his research in Cumhuriyet (newspaper) in April 2018 since the Ministry of Health did not take any action regarding the toxicity found in Şık’s research samples. The title of the four-day article series was: “Türkiye’yi kanser eden ürünleri devlet gizledi, biz açıklıyoruz! İşte zehir listesi” (The state hid the list of cancer-inducing products in Turkey, we are revealing the list!)
Once the articles were published, an investigation against Bülent Şık opened upon receiving the Ministry of Health’s complaint that relied on three main accusations: “Disclosure of Confidential Information in Respect of a Duty” (TCK 258); Securing Prohibited Information (TCK 334) and Disclosure of Prohibited Information (TCK 336)“.
The decision hearing was held on September 26, 2019 at Istanbul Court of Law 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. Bülent Şık acquitted from the accusation of “Securing Prohibited Information“. He received a year and 3 months imprisonment due to “Disclosure of Confidential Information in Respect of a Duty” accusation. The sentence was not reprieved since the defendant did not report remorse in his statements.
The decision was overturned by the 13th Criminal Division of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice on April 29, 2021. The Office declared that the reported report was not a confidential document and decided to acquit Şık. In the decision, it was reminded that the results of a scientific study must be disclosed by the Ministry of Health after all information and data have been collected.
However, the prosecutor, who objected to the acquittal decision, stated that according to the protocol signed between the University and the Ministry, it was determined that the results of the research could not be disclosed without the permission of the ministry and that the results of the research should be disclosed by applying legal means unless the permission of the ministry was obtained. In his appeal to the Supreme Court, the prosecutor alleged that the human rights defender’s announcement of the findings was a crime, just because the ministry had not disclosed the information without resorting to this method.