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Judicial harassment of academic Bülent Şık

Status: 
Sentenced
About the situation

On 26 September 2019, Istanbul’s Second Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted Bülent Şık of “providing and disclosing forbidden information”, however, the Court sentenced him to one year and three months in prison in relation to the charge of “disclosing work secrets”.

On 7 February 2019, the first hearing of academic and human rights defender Bülent Şık was held at Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. He is charged with “disclosing work secrets” and “providing and disclosing forbidden information” in relation to four articles he published in newspaper Cumhuriyet in April 2018, which reported on the findings of Ministry of Health-led research about environmental pollution that was endangering public health. He faces a prison sentence of between five to twelve years. The next hearing will be held on 30 May 2019.

The first hearing of academic and human rights defender Bülent Şık will be held on 7 February 2019 at Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance in Çağlayan Courthouse. He is charged with “disclosing work secrets” and “providing and disclosing forbidden information” in relation to a series of articles he published, which reported on the findings of Ministry of Health-led research about environmental pollution that was endangering public health. He faces a prison sentence of between five to twelve years.

About Bülent Şık

Bulent SikBülent Şık is a human rights defender working on public health, food safety and the right to a healthy environment. He previously conducted research on areas such as toxic chemicals in food and drinking water and their impact on public health. He was an academic and Technical Assistant Director of the Food Safety and Agricultural Research Center at Akdeniz University. He was also a signatory to the 2016 Academics for Peace petition “We will not be party to this crime”, which called for peace in South Eastern Turkey. He was dismissed from his position by emergency decree in November 2016.

27 September 2019
Bülent Şık sentenced to one year and three months in prison

On 26 September 2019, Istanbul’s Second Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted Bülent Şık of “providing and disclosing forbidden information”, however, the Court sentenced him to one year and three months in prison in relation to the charge of “disclosing work secrets”. The Court did not suspend the execution of the prison sentence on the grounds that during the hearings he did not show any remorse about the crime he allegedly committed. The human rights defender will appeal the judgement.

Bülent Şık was charged with “disclosing work secrets” and “providing and disclosing forbidden information” in relation to four articles that he published in the newspaper Cumhuriyet in April 2018. The articles reported on findings of the Ministry of Health-led research study which was conducted in conjunction with Akdeniz University. The report revealed that public health was put at risk to such and extent that the people’s right to health was threatened. He was facing a prison sentence of between five and twelve years.

While Front Line Defenders welcomes the aquittal of Bülent Şık of “providing and disclosing forbidden information”, it expresses deep concern about the prison sentence, as it is believed to be solely related to his peaceful and legitimate activities in defence of human rights.

5 June 2019
Next hearing of Bülent Şık’s case scheduled for 26 September 2019

On 30 May 2019, the second hearing of academic and human rights defender Bülent Şık was held at Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. Bülent Şık is charged with “disclosing work secrets” and “providing and disclosing forbidden information” in relation to four articles that he published in the newspaper Cumhuriyet in April 2018. The articles reported on the findings of the Ministry of Health-led research study conducted in conjunction with Akdeniz University, endangering public health and thus threatening the right to health of the people. He is facing a prison sentence of between five and twelve years.

During the first hearing held on 7 February 2019, the Court asked the Ministry of Health to provide information regarding whether any official decision had been taken by the Ministry to keep the results of the research confidential. On 30 May 2019, the Ministry presented the Court with an agreement made with the university. Bülent Şık underlined the fact that although the agreement stated that it was up to the Ministry to decide on the publication of the results, the document did not contain a confidentiality clause.

During the first hearing, the Court had also appointed an expert to investigate whether there was any other article, report or essay related to this issue, apart from the four articles published by Bülent Şık in Cumhuriyet. According to the statement of his lawyers made during the second hearing, the expert report confirmed that information published by Bülent Şık had been known to the general public before the publication of the four articles.

In the statement made on 30 May 2019, Bülent Şık emphasised the paramount importance of prevention and protection in the area of public health, and requested the Court to investigate whether the Ministry of Health had taken the necessary measures to protect public health in the context of the research results. The Court rejected this request on the grounds that such investigation would not contribute to his case.

The lawyers requested the immediate acquittal of Bülent Şık, arguing that both the Ministry of Health’s response and the expert report proved that he had not committed the crimes at issue. However, the Court rejected their request.

The Court gave Bülent Şık and his lawyers time until the next hearing to provide their statements as to the accusations, and scheduled it for 26 September 2019 at 2 pm. The final verdict is expected to be announced then.

Front Line Defenders expresses concern about the ongoing judicial harassment of Bülent Şık, as it believes that the charges against him are solely related to his peaceful and legitimate activities in defence of human rights.

12 April 2019
Case against Bülent Şık ongoing; next hearing scheduled for May

On 7 February 2019, the first hearing of academic and human rights defender Bülent Şık was held at Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. He is charged with “disclosing work secrets” and “providing and disclosing forbidden information” in relation to four articles he published in newspaper Cumhuriyet in April 2018, which reported on the findings of Ministry of Health-led research about environmental pollution that was endangering public health. He faces a prison sentence of between five to twelve years. The next hearing will be held on 30 May 2019.

During the hearing Bülent Şık rejected all the accusations against him. He underlined that in the Ministry of Health-led research study, the causes of environmental pollution endangering public health, particularly children’s health, are highlighted, yet the Ministry of Health neither took the necessary steps, nor made any attempt to warn the relevant public institutions. His lawyers requested to extend the scope of the prosecution and submitted a list of seven questions to the Court to ask of the public authorities and institutions about study whether the necessary measures were taken to protect public health. The Court rejected this request.

While rejecting a request for acquittal, the Court asked the Ministry of Health to provide information regarding whether this research should have been officially kept secret. The Court also appointed an expert to investigate whether there exists any other article, report or essay related to this issue, apart from the four articles that Bülent Şık published in Cumhuriyet. Both the Ministry of Health and the expert are expected to submit the requested information to the Court by the next hearing, which will be held on 30 May 2019.

Regarding a second investigation opened against him, on 16 January 2019 the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office decided not to prosecute Bülent Şık on charges of “terrorist propaganda.” This criminal investigation was opened against the human rights defender to determine whether a press release he posted on his social media account and four articles published in online newspaper Bianet between 2015 and 2018 on the impact of armed conflict on environmental and public health constituted “terrorist propaganda.” The press release, “War is a Public Health Problem”, was issued by the Turkish Medical Association calling for peace in southeastern Turkey.

Front Line Defenders welcomes the closure of the second investigation against Bülent Şık regarding the charges of “terrorist propaganda”. However, it expresses its concern at the ongoing judicial harassment of Bülent Şık as it believes that the charges against him are solely related to his peaceful and legitimate activities in defence of human rights.

29 January 2019
Judicial harassment of academic Bülent Şık

The first hearing of academic and human rights defender Bülent Şık will be held on 7 February 2019 at Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance in Çağlayan Courthouse. He is charged with “disclosing work secrets” and “providing and disclosing forbidden information” in relation to a series of articles he published, which reported on the findings of Ministry of Health-led research about environmental pollution that was endangering public health. He faces a prison sentence of between five to twelve years.

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Bülent Şık is a human rights defender working on public health, food safety and the right to a healthy environment. He previously conducted research on areas such as toxic chemicals in food and drinking water and their impact on public health. He was an academic and Technical Assistant Director of the Food Safety and Agricultural Research Center at Akdeniz University. He was also a signatory to the 2016 Academics for Peace petition “We will not be party to this crime”, which called for peace in South Eastern Turkey. He was dismissed from his position by emergency decree in November 2016. He is also facing charges of “terrorist propaganda” for signing the peace petition and his trial continues at Istanbul’s 22nd High Criminal Court.

Between 2011 and 2016, the Ministry of Health carried out research in the provinces of Kocaeli, Kırklareli, Edirne, Tekirdağ and Antalya on the contamination of soil, food, air and water by carcinogenic chemicals and their potential risks to human health. Bülent Şık was one of the researchers contracted by the Ministry. In 2016, the human rights defender was forced to resign from the project after he signed the petition of Academics for Peace.

Given the ongoing threat to public health due to the lack of remedial measures and that information about the threat was still not in the public domain, Bülent Şık decided to publish the research in 2018. Between 16 and 19 April 2018, Bülent Şık published four articles in the newspaper Cumhuriyet on his findings.

Upon complaint of the Ministry of Health, a criminal investigation was opened against  Bülent Şık  and  an indictment was subsequently issued. Although the indictment was first issued by the Prosecutor’s Office for Press-related Crimes, the investigation was later referred to the Prosecutor’s Office for Terrorism-related Crimes, and the indictment issued by that office was accepted by the court. The human rights defender is charged with “disclosing work secrets” and “providing and disclosing forbidden information.” His first hearing will be held at 10.45am on 7 February 2019.

More recently, a second criminal investigation was opened against Bülent Şık to determine whether his social media posts constituted “terrorist propaganda”. He was summoned to the Prosecutor’s Office on 5 January 2019  for questioning about four articles he published in the online newspaper Bianet between 2015 and 2018, on the impact of armed conflict on environmental and public health in Turkey and the Middle East. He was also asked about having shared, on his social media account, the press release “War is a Public Health Problem” issued by the Turkish Medical Association calling for peace in South Eastern  Turkey. The prosecutor is expected to make a decision on the outcome of the investigation against Bülent Şık in the coming weeks.

Front Line Defenders expresses its concern on the judicial harassment of Bülent Şık as it is believed that the charges are solely related to his peaceful and legitimate activities in defence of human rights.