A court in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday sentenced 12 rights activists to 20 years in prison each for planning a march to protest high water and electricity bills and mismanagement of their province.
The western Bandundu city regional court convicted them of rebellion and conspiracy.
African human rights group ASADHO issued a statement shortly after the ruling was announced, saying it was "in violation of all national and international guarantees of a fair trial".
It also said the activists had asked for more time to prepare for the trial, but that "the judges categorically refused", convicting them without hearing their defence arguments.
The defendants last month organised a rally to protest the Bandundu province leadership as well as price hikes for water and electricity, but were arrested a day before they could hold it.
According to several rights groups, including ASADHO, the arrests were executed on the orders of province governor Jean Kamisendu Kutuka.
ACAJ, another Congolese rights group, also said the activists had been "severely tortured" by police while in custody.
Kutuka assumed the governor post about a year ago, after the provincial assembly had passed a no confidence vote against his predecessor.