U.N. decries Bahrain's high appeals court decision
January 11, 2013 -- Updated 2151 GMT (0551 HKT)
Bahraini women hold portraits of relatives being held in Bahraini jails in Sanabis, west of Manama, on January 6, 2013.
- Bahrain's highest appeals court took just minutes to rule, an attorney says
- The 13 pro-democracy activists received sentences between five years and life
- Human Rights Watch also complained about the decision
(CNN) -- U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said he "deeply regrets" a recent decision by Bahrain's highest court to uphold the verdicts against 13 activists convicted of plotting to overthrow the government.
"He reiterates his firm belief that the only way to promote peace, stability, justice and prosperity in Bahrain is through a national dialogue which addresses the legitimate aspirations of all Bahrainis, and in which all communities can participate freely, without fear or intimidation," the secretary-general's spokesman said Tuesday.
Human Rights Watch also decried the decision saying it confirms "the inability of Bahrain's judicial system to protect basic rights."
The decision Monday took just minutes. The 13 people received sentences between five years and life, said attorney Mohsin Alawi, who represents three of the 13.
A revolution deferred in Bahrain
Boy, 11, acquitted over Bahrain protest
Tortured and tried in Bahrain
Read more: Bahrain says ban on protests is response to violence
The ruling by the court was the last chance the 13 had to reverse their convictions. They were arrested for their roles in anti-government demonstrations in 2011 as the Arab Spring movement swept across the region.
The Bahraini government defended the judicial procedures and decisions at the trial.
"Defendants and their lawyers were given the opportunity to present their defense through the lengthy litigation process," Salman H. AlJalahma, spokesman for the Bahraini president's office, said in a statement provided to CNN. "This process reduced one of the sentences to a quarter of their original sentence, leading to their release for time served, and the acquittal of some of the charges of two others."
The statement went on to say that "no confessions obtained through force were allowed into evidence" at the trials.
Demonstrations in Bahrain failed to gain the traction of other Arab Spring uprisings after a crackdown by authorities, backed by troops from nearby Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
In November 2011, Bahrain's Independent Commission of Inquiry issued a report critical of authorities' reactions to the protests, which began in February 2011, spurred by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Read more: Bahrain strips Shiite activists of citizenship amid unrest
Bahrain plays a key strategic role in the Middle East and is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet headquarters.
When Bahrain's lower appeals court upheld the convictions in September, the U.S. State Department said it was "deeply troubled" by the convictions.
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0507 GMT (1307 HKT)
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0006 GMT (0806 HKT)
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.