June 23, 2011 / 4:49 PM / 8 years ago

U.N. chief alarmed by Bahrain opposition sentences

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced alarm on Thursday about conditions in Bahrain where activists and opposition leaders have received long prison sentences for protesting in the Gulf state.

“(Ban) notes with deep concern the harsh sentences, including life imprisonment, handed down in Bahrain against 21 political activists, human rights defenders and opposition leaders,” Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

“He urges the Bahraini authorities to allow all defendants to exercise their right to appeal and to act in strict accordance with their international human rights obligations, including the right to due process and a fair trial,” he said.

Bahrain sentenced eight prominent Shi’ite Muslim activists and opposition leaders to life in prison on charges of plotting a coup during protests this year.

Nesirky said Ban hoped Bahrain authorities would take steps to facilitate a genuine national dialogue that would “address the legitimate aspirations of all Bahrainis.”

The U.N. reaction echoed remarks from State Department spokesman Mark Toner on Wednesday, who said that Washington was concerned about the severity of the sentences.

Demonstrators have mounted scattered daily protests in the island kingdom since its emergency law was lifted on June 1.

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Xavier Briand

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