A military court in Bahrain sentenced four Shiite protesters to death after convicting them Thursday of killing two policemen during anti-government demonstrations last month, state media said.

Three other Shiite activists, who were also on trial, were sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of playing a role in the policemen’s deaths.

The verdicts, which can be appealed, were the first related to the uprising in Bahrain. The kingdom’s Shiite majority has long complained of discrimination and is campaigning for greater freedoms and equal rights in the tiny, Sunni-ruled island nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Bahraini human rights groups denounced the verdicts and said the trial, conducted in secrecy, had no legal credibility and was politically motivated.

“It’s a warning saying, ‘This is how we will treat you if you continue to demand your rights,’ ” said Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

Bahrain’s king declared martial law and invited troops from Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-ruled Persian Gulf countries to help quell Shiite dissent after weeks of street marches and bloody clashes in the capital, Manama. At least 30 people have died since protests began Feb. 15.

— Associated Press