The group includes a human rights activist who staged a 110-day hunger strike last year to protest the verdicts, which critics have denounced as part of attempts to crush the revolution that began nearly two years ago in the strategic island kingdom, The Associated Press reported.
The Bahraini revolution began in mid-February 2011, when the people, inspired by the popular revolutions that toppled the dictators of Tunisia and Egypt, started holding massive demonstrations.
The Bahraini government promptly launched a brutal crackdown on the peaceful protests and called in Saudi-led Arab forces from neighboring Persian Gulf states.
Dozens of people have been killed in the crackdown, and the security forces have arrested hundreds, including doctors and nurses accused of treating injured revolutionaries.
Defense attorney Jalil al-Aradi said the high court refused to reconsider the sentences or convictions, which were originally handed down in 2011 by a military-led tribunal created under temporary martial law-style rules. The group has claimed they faced abuses while in custody.
Among the eight sentenced to life is rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who staged a more than three-month hunger strike last year in protest. The other 12 have sentences ranging from five to 15 years, with seven convicted in absentia.
The case has brought international pressure on Bahrain, including efforts by Denmark to free al-Khawaja, who also holds Danish citizenship.
On Monday, scattered protests broke out in Bahrain shortly after the court decision, which could close all further appeal options.
“The Bahrain regime is pushing its human rights crisis closer to the edge,” said Brian Dooley, director of the human rights defenders program at U.S.-based Human Rights First.
Last year, the official Bahrain News Agency said the charges include “plotting to overthrow the regime” and having “foreign intelligence contacts”. No clear evidence, however, has been presented to back Bahrain's allegations of direct foreign aid to the opposition.
A government statement at the time said the court “provided all assurances of a fair trial” and allowed defense attorneys full access to the defendants. It also said they received “full medical care” in prison.
Bahrain also faces other showdowns over jailed activists, including rights campaigner Nabeel Rajab whose prosecution has brought criticism from Washington.
Bahrain's main political group, Al Wefaq, siad the courts are used a “tool to punish the opposition” and suggests that authorities are not serious about offers for a political dialogue to ease the tensions.
“It seemed there is no solution for the Bahraini crisis,” said a statement by the group, “because there is no serious desire to solve this crisis.”
A report published by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in November 2011 found that the Al Khalifa regime had used excessive force in the crackdown and accused Manama of torturing political activists, politicians, and protesters.
The Bahraini protesters say they will continue holding anti-regime demonstrations until their demand for the establishment of a democratically elected government is met.
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