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The Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah lashed out against Bahraini courts Thursday, for a verdict the day before sentencing Shiite opposition leaders to life imprisonment.

‘The Bahraini government, with such decisions against the peaceful opposition in the country, is targeting the rights of the people of Bahrain,’ read a statement released in Beirut by the group.

Bahrain’s military tribunal on Wednesday sentenced eight Shiite Muslim political figures to life imprisonment. The harsh sentences, on charges of plotting to overthrow the regime and exchanging intelligence information with a terrorist organization, has sparked protests in Shiite majority villages.

A pro-government billboard in Muharraq, Bahrain, with pictures of jailed Bahraini Shiite and Sunni opposition leaders with their names written below, right to left: Hassan Mushaima, Abdel Wahab Hussein, Mohamed Muqdad, Ibrahim Sharif, Abdul Jalil al-Singace, and a question mark over a blurred picture depicting a Shiite cleric that reads beneath it "And others." At top, the sign reads: "Disease must be excised from the body of the nation," and at bottom: "We won't keep quiet after today about any mistakes or excesses by those whom abuse Bahrain and its people." A court sentenced eight Shiite activists to life in prison Wednesday, June 22, 2011 and issued long jail terms for 13 others in the latest blow by authorities waging a crackdown against protesters seeking greater rights in the Gulf kingdom.

‘Our movement strongly condemn such measures … and calls on the international community to stop being silent regarding the human rights’ violations committed against the people of Bahrain,’ the Hezbollah statement added.

Bahrain is one of several Arab countries to have experienced pro-democracy demonstrations as part of the Arab Spring. But, unlike Tunisia and Egypt, where the protesters threw out long-entrenched rulers, Bahrain’s rulers have clamped down harder.

Bahrain has accused Hezbollah and its backer, Iran, of actively plotting with the Shiite opposition to overthrow the country’s Muslim-Sunni ruling family by organizing protests in February.

Both Iran and Hezbollah have previously denied involvement in the protests, which engulfed Bahrain in the late winter and spring.

The Bahraini government has launched a violent crackdown against the protesters. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have deployed troops to Bahrain to support the regime.

The majority Shiite population in Bahrain have long said they are discriminated against when it comes to housing and government jobs. They have also been calling for greater political rights from the Sunni royal family. m&c

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