Condemnation is mounting in response to severe sentences handed down June 22 against 21 leaders of ongoing anti-government demonstrations.
Religious leader Sheikh Issa Qasim in particular denounced the eight life sentences handed out, saying, "We are all feeling pain, suffering and a sense of depression from the sentencing."
The largest opposition group, the Islamic National Accord Association, "received these sentences with shock, especially as they contradict the call for national dialogue" with Bahrain's king.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay equated the sentencing with "political persecution," while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called upon the monarchy to allow judicial appeals to proceed. UN data indicate military courts have sentenced more than 100 protesters to jail, many having engaged in demonstrations only minimally. Almost 1,000 Bahrainis have been detained, and four prisoners have died from torture.