Turkish opposition daily cartoonist sent back to jail

Turkish Cartoonist Musa Kart (pictured April 22, 2019) was sent back to prison with five colleagues from the opposition daily Cumhuriyet (AFP Photo/Yasin AKGUL)

Istanbul (AFP) - Six former staff of the opposition daily Cumhuriyet including cartoonist Musa Kart went back to prison on Thursday after an appeals court upheld their jail sentences.

Last year 14 former Cumhuriyet staff, including journalists and executives, were sentenced for "aiding and abetting terror groups without being a member" but they remained free pending the appeals.

An appeals court in Istanbul in February unanimously approved the sentences.

The six including Kart, four administrators and one accountant, were returned to Kandira prison to serve the rest of their jail sentences, an official from the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) said.

Kandira is in the northwestern city of Kocaeli nearly 150 kilometres (90 miles) from Istanbul.

The controversial Cumhuriyet case sparked criticism over the state of press freedom in Turkey.

Cumhuriyet, the country's oldest daily founded in 1924, is not owned by a business tycoon but by an independent foundation.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned Turkey's "disgraceful" persecution of the former staff members.

"We are appalled to see these leading figures being thrown in prison again," RSF's Turkey representative Erol Onderoglu said in a statement.

"This is the culmination of ruthless political vengeance that highlights the collapse of the rule of law," he added.

The daily has often had troubles with government authorities, with its former editor-in-chief Can Dundar fleeing to Germany after being convicted in 2016 over an article alleging that Turkey had supplied weapons to Islamist groups in Syria.