A Libyan military court convicted 24 Eastern European men of acting as mercenaries for Moammar Gadhafi during last year's revolution.
A Russian, three Belarussians and 19 Ukrainians were sentenced to 10 years hard labor, while another Russian, deemed to be the leader of the group, was given a life sentence, the AFP reported on Monday.
The men denied the charges, claiming that they were contractors working in the oil sector during the Libyan uprising that overthrew Gadhafi's government. The men have been in custody since the fall of Tripoli last August, and the military accuses them of building ground-to-air missile batteries to target NATO warplanes.
Moscow called Monday's sentencing unfair and unjustified, while Belarussian ambassador Anatoly Stepus told Reuters that it is the worst kind of sentence.
Ukrainian ambassador Mykola Nahornyi said that the men were threatened with weapons by Gadhafi forces to [take part in] the building and maintenance of anti-aircraft weapons.