Witnesses say regime forces fired tear gas and sound grenades on protesters as they were heading to the Martyr Square, formerly called Pearl Square, in the capital Manama on Wednesday.

The anti-regime rally came hours after a special security court sentenced eight opposition activists to life in jail for “plotting to overthrow the government.”

The court also handed sentences of up to 15 years to 13 other activists. Seven people were sentenced in absentia.

The defendants, however, vowed to continue their protest campaign against the rule of Al Khalifa dynasty.

Witnesses say court’s guards beat them and dragged them away from the courtroom after they spoke out against the unfair verdicts.

“We will continue to fight for our rights and our people,” human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja shouted as he was sentenced to life.

“Peaceful, peaceful, peaceful. Our people want freedom,” shouted leader of the Waad party Ibrahim Sharif, who was sentenced to five years in jail.

The Wednesday trial is one of several taking place in Bahrain as part of the government’s crackdown on popular protests. Despite the lifting of an emergency law, the Manama regime continues to try civilians in its so-called special courts.

Last month, a military court sentenced two anti-regime protesters to death and nine others to 20 years behind bars for their alleged role in the killing of two policemen and the abduction of another policeman.

Bahraini authorities have also announced that the trials of 47 doctors and medical staff accused of supporting the protests will resume next week.

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