MANAMA – A Bahraini civilian court has upheld jail sentences against 20 leaders of last year’s pro-democracy demonstrations, including eight prominent activists facing life in prison, reports BBC News.

Among those convicted to life were Abdulhadi al Khawaja, who went on a 110-day hunger strike to protest his detention as well as opposition leader Hassan Mushaimaa, who had called for the Bahrain monarchy to be turned into a republic, explains The Guardian.

Twelve activists, including Sunni Muslim opposition leader Ibrahim Sharif, were given prison terms from five to 15 years.

The protesters were initially sentenced last year by a military court for allegedly plotting to overthrow King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa's regime.

The group represents some of the most high-profile leaders of the Shiite-led movement demanding greater political freedom from the Sunni-led ruling kingdom. The Arab Spring-inspired uprising started 19 months ago, reports The Washington Post.

Shiites represents about 70 percent of Bahrain’s citizens, but claim they face systematic discrimination, such as being excluded from top government posts.

According to international observers and local NGOs, at least 60 people are said to have been killed since protests erupted in February 2011.