Bülent Şık is not acquitted in the second hearing, trial is adjourned

30 May 2019

İstanbul - Second hearing of the trial where scientist Bülent Şık faces up to 12 years in prison for disclosing the findings of a cancer research conducted in a region inhabited by 8 million people by the Ministry of Health was held today. During the hearing that took place at Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, the court decided to grant additional time for defense lawyers to present their final defense and adjourned the trial until 26 September.

Defense lawyer Can Atalay took the floor first and stated that the letter received from the Ministry of Health confirms that their earlier defense statements are indeed justified. Atalay added, “The expert report that your court has received ex officio confirms that countless news stories have been published on this issue. It is clear that there is no crime. Material elements of the offenses specified under Articles 258, 334 and 336 of the Turkish Penal Code have not been constituted. There is no need to drag this trial. My client needs to be acquitted immediately.”

Şık: ‘Prevention is better than curing’

Defendant Bülent Şık noted that a technical issue is being discussed here and continued, “I will base my statement on the notion that ‘prevention is better than curing.’ Following the first hearing of this trial that was held on 7 February, your court has sent a letter to the Ministry. We should not consider the Ministry’s reply a proper reply. News stories and academic studies on this topic have also influenced the Ministry and motivated them to conduct this research.

I find it strange that only my statements about this topic, which concerns millions of people as a public health issue, are criminalized. Findings of this research put forth that there are many risks. This study was conducted by a public institution. Let’s not lose focus here. I want to ask, ‘What has the Ministry done about it? What kind of measures did they take?’

The main problem is that there is no will to solve this issue. The problem is that public institutions don’t live up to their responsibilities. The problem is that they are taking steps towards the market’s demands.

This research is a very valuable scientific study that provides clear answers on how to resolve a serious social issue.”

Lawyers and Bar representatives from various cities that were included in the research attended the hearing and presented statements. Tekirdağ Bar Association’s President Sedat Tekneci stated, “We were not going to be able to learn about these findings if Mr Şık’s report were not published. I would like to thank him sincerely. He did what the state should have done.”

Tekirdağ Bar Association’s Vice President Egem Gürcün stated, “We’re people who are in desperate need of clean air. The data at hand is terrifying. We demand clean water and clean air. We have no idea what the Ministry has done about these horrible findings. We are abandoned to our fate.”

Following the lawyers’ statements, the court gave a 5 minute recess. After this brief break, the court announced its interim decision and granted additional time to lawyers in order to prepare a final defense statement and adjourned the trial until 26 September 2019 at 2 PM.

Case background

Assistant Professor Bülent Şık was expelled from his position at Akdeniz University with a government decree during the State of Emergency that followed the coup attempt in 15 July 2016. An investigation was launched against him per the Ministry of Health’s complaint because of a series of articles published in Cumhuriyet daily titled “The state has concealed the carcinogen products, we are making them public! Here is the poison list.”

Alleged crimes listed in the investigation were “disclosure of confidential information in respect of a duty,” “securing prohibited information,” and “disclosure of prohibited information.”

In this series of articles, Bülent Şık mentioned a study conducted by the Ministry of Health between 2011 and 2016 in Antalya, Ergene, and Dilovası -- regions with above average cancer-related deaths.

According to Şık, this research -- which the Ministry refrained from sharing with the public -- put forth that an incredibly high level of pesticides that are detrimental to our health were found in string beans, peppers, cucumbers, parsley, strawberries, plums and apples.