Disclosing the Risk of Cancer due to Pollution, Researchers Sentenced to Prison

Turkish court sentenced a researcher for disclosing research results related to the risk of cancer due to toxic pollution. The court […]


Turkish court sentenced a researcher for disclosing research results related to the risk of cancer due to toxic pollution. The court in Istanbul on Thursday (9/26/2019) sentenced 15 researchers to prison sentences named Dr. Bulent Sik. Dr. Sik was found guilty of “leaking classified information” to a Turkish newspaper called “Cumhuriyet” last year.

Dr. Bulent Sik and Cumhuriyet Newspaper

Pollution from the Industrial Innovation zone, about 80 kilometers from Istanbul and home to many chemical and metallurgical factories, was chosen in a report written by Dr. Sik because it was considered to have a cancer risk level far above the international average.

“This research clearly reveals the extent to which water resources have been contaminated by toxic materials,” Dr Sik told reporters after reading the court’s verdict. “But the court’s decision shows that the results of research directly relating to public health can be hidden. This is not acceptable, “he added.

Research conducted by Dr. Sik for the Ministry of Health also involved a number of other researchers. Dr. Sik and other scientists from 2011 to 2015 examined the relationship of toxicity in soil, water and food with high rates of cancer in several provinces in western Turkey.

The court’s ruling drew criticism from human rights activist groups. Amnesty International considers the government’s attitude towards the findings that prompted Dr. Sik acted alone to inform the public of the risk of the cancer. According to the group, Sik decided to talk to the media after realizing the government did nothing about the findings, the relationship of pollution to cancer.

“Instead of suppressing the discovery and demanding that Dr. Sik, the Ministry of Health and the authorities should take the necessary actions needed to prevent environmental pollution and protect public health, “said Amnesty International Turkey campaigner Milena Buyum. Amnesty International also said that Dr Sik would be a prisoner of conscience if he was jailed.

Rights groups and environmental activists accuse the government of failing to enforce environmental regulations amid a rapid industrial boom in many regions of Turkey. Now Dr. Sik is not a prisoner yet. He is still free until Thursday 3 October 2019 while awaiting the results of the appeals court.

Also read: Knowing Pactamycin and Its Development: The Diaspora Scientists’ Fight Against Malaria


  1. https://www.cnnindonesia.com/international/20190927193254-134-434785/ researcher-dihukum-karena- revealed-risiko-kanker-kibat-pollution accessed on 28 September 2019.
  2. https://banjarmasin.tribunnews.com/2019/09/27/ revealed-results-research-pollution-toxic-tattering-risiko-kanker-ilmuwan-turki-d jailed accessed on 28 September 2019.

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