The highest appeal court in Bahrain has chosen to uphold the sentences handed down to a group of 13 activists who were arrested for taking part in anti-government protests in 2011. No further appeals can be made by the activists, some of whom were convicted of plotting to overthrow the government and sentenced to life in prison.
A group of 20 opposition leaders and high profile activists were originally convicted by a special military tribunal in 2011, following mass street protests which led to clashes between police and protesters. All twenty lost their first appeal in a civilian court last September. Seven members of the twenty, who were originally tried in absentia, are still either in hiding or in exile. The remaining 13 have now lost their final appeal and will have to serve out their sentences, which include 8 life sentences.
Several international Human Rights groups have condemned the activists’ treatment, claiming that they neither used nor advocated violence and that their trial and detention was an act of political repression which breaks international law.
Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, one of the men sentenced to life in prison, staged a 110 day hunger strike last year to protest against his sentence.
The leader of the main opposition group al-Wefaq commented on the ruling, saying “I think it is accurate to call these rulings political persecution.”
A small group of protesters immediately gathered outside the courthouse to condemn the decision, and many are expecting the ruling to spark further Shi’ite protests against Bahrain’s Sunni royal family, who control the government.