DUBAI: A Bahrain court on Tuesday upheld jail terms against 13 leading opposition figures, including seven facing life in prison, over charges of plotting to overthrow the Gulf monarchy, lawyers said.
The defendants who played leading roles in the month-long protests last year demanding drastic democratic reforms did not turn up in the appeals court, the lawyers said.
The 13 activists were being retried in a civil court after they were convicted by a special semi-military court, along with seven others who remain at large, of plotting to topple the Sunni ruling family.
Another defendant was acquitted.
The prosecution had dropped charges against all defendants “related to the freedom of expression” which were considered illegal by the National Safety Court that was set up to try people who took part in the uprising.
Among those sentenced is activist Abdulhadi Khawaja who ended in June a 110-day hunger strike.
Also sentenced were Hasan Musheime and Abdel Jalil al-Sankis, both leaders of the banned Shia movement, Haq, as well as Sunni leftist Ibrahim Sharif, who heads the secular Waed group.
In June last year, the specially formed tribunal handed down lengthy jail terms against the 21 mostly Shia activists after convicting them of plotting to overthrow the regime.
Ten months later, Bahrain's highest appeals court ordered a retrial.
Bahrain came under strong criticism from international human rights organisations over last year's crackdown on the Shia-led protests.
An international panel commissioned by King Hamad to probe the government's clampdown found out that excessive force and torture had been used against protesters and detainees.