The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has strongly criticized the harsh jail terms handed down to 13 leading Bahraini activists, urging the Al Khalifa regime to observe international human rights laws.
"The secretary general is concerned by the harsh sentences, including life imprisonment, upheld by a Bahrain appeals court," Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said in a statement on Wednesday, AFP reported.
A Bahraini civilian court on Tuesday upheld the sentences imposed on 13 opposition figures. The jail terms, seven of them life sentences, were previously issued by a military court.
Human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and opposition leader Hassan Mushaimaa are among those sentenced to life in prison. The activists had been charged with “plotting to overthrow the monarchy.”
Ban "urges the Bahraini authorities to allow all defendants to exercise their right to appeal and to ensure that due process is observed,” the statement said.
Ban also renewed his call on the Bahraini authorities "to ensure the application of international human rights norms, including the right to a fair trial, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”
Bahrainis have been staging demonstrations since mid-February 2011, demanding political reform and a constitutional monarchy. But the demand soon changed to an outright call for the ouster of the ruling Al Khalifa family following its brutal crackdown on peaceful protests.
Scores of people have been killed and many others have been injured in the Saudi-backed crackdown on the peaceful protests in the Persian Gulf kingdom.
Bahrainis hold King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa responsible for the death and arrest of protesters.