A military court yesterday convicted eight prominent dissidents of plotting to overthrow the Chinese nationalist government and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 12 years to life, ending one of the most celebrated political trials in recent Taiwan history.

The defendants included well-known Taiwanese dissenter Shih Ming-teh, who received the lone life sentence, national legislator Huang Hsin-chieh and the island's leading feminist, Lu Hsu-lien.

Huang published, and the seven others wrote for, the now-banned dissident publication Formosa Magazine. Huang was sentenced to 14 years in prison and six others received 12 years. The property of all defendants was ordered confiscated, except for what is necessary to support dependents.

The nine defendants had faced possible death sentences on the charges of sedition and plotting to overthrow the government. The charges stemmed from a World Human Rights Day demonstration in the southern city of Kaohsiung last Dec. 12 that ended in a riot.

The prosecution accused the eight of having established contacts with either mainland Chinese communists or with U.S.-based groups supporting Taiwanese independence, a cause espoused by native Taiwanese who resent the long domination by mainlanders of the Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang.

The defendants said at their trial that the aim of their political activities, including rallies and other events, had been to agitate for an end to the Kuomintang's one-party rule, and end to the martial law that has been in force three decades on Taiwan, and greater freedom of speech.