A special military court in Bahrain handed down life sentences on Wednesday to eight Shiite activists accused of plotting a coup to overthrow the Gulf Arab state’s Sunni monarchy. Thirteen other activists received jail terms of up to 15 years. Seven of the 21 sentences were given in absentia. During the trial, witnesses in Manama say police fired tear gas to stop protesters from convening in a central part of the city, in one of the country’s first demonstrations in months. Human rights organizations have called the arrests and convictions politically driven, as the men are well-known opposition figures.