Bahraini Shiite anti-government protesters demonstrate in the streets of Manama on February 27.

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NEW: Opposition party calls trials "political persecution"

8 people convicted of trying to topple government get life sentences

Officials say the people convicted were part of protests earlier this year

CNN  — 

A Bahrain appeals court upheld prison sentences Wednesday for 21 people convicted of trying to topple the country’s government, the Bahrain News Agency reported.

The sentences ranged from two years to life in prison. Eight people received life sentences.

Seven people still being sought by the government were sentenced in absentia.

Officials have said the people convicted were part of the pro-democracy demonstrations that swept through Bahrain earlier this year. The government crushed the protests in March and arrested scores of people.

The opposition party Al Wefaq condemned the military trials in a statement Wednesday, calling them “a clear case of political persecution.”

“It is internationally accepted that military courts lack the most basic standards in the rights of the accused and are deeply flawed in the goal of achieving justice,” Al Wefaq’s statement said.

Al Wefaq also cited as evidence “harsh sentences handed to members of Bahrain’s Teachers Union,” including its president, Mahdi Abudeeb, who on Sunday was sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking part in protests. His deputy, Jalila Al Salman, received 3 years, the opposition party said.