Turkish scientist, exposing cancer risk, acquitted of charges

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A Turkish scientist has been acquitted by an appeals court after he was convicted for disclosing classified information after exposing cancer risks from toxic pollution, a legal document seen by AFP showed on Friday.

Bülent Şık in 2018 revealed the results of a study undertaken for the health ministry in 2011-15 linking the toxicity in soil, water and food to high rates of cancer in several western provinces of Turkey.

The food engineer wrote articles for a newspaper after concluding that the government was not acting on the study’s findings.

In September 2019, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison for “disclosing classified information,” in a case condemned by human rights groups at the time.

The appeals court quashed the verdict, acquitting Şık on Thursday.

“Our expectation was that the conviction would be approved. In fact, I can say it came as a surprise to me and the lawyers,” Şık told AFP.

“It’s a good decision. I feel like justice has been served,” he added.

Although relieved, Şık said the study was still not available to the public and it was not clear what measures the ministry had taken to protect Turks’ health.

“What is the ministry doing? Why does the health ministry exist? To protect public and the environment’s health,” he said.

Environmental activists and rights organizations regularly accuse the government of failing to protect public health as Turkey pushes ahead with an industrial boom.

Government critics are also often targeted with protracted court cases and arrests, especially since a failed attempt to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2016.

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