updated 4/28/2009 9:16:26 PM ET 2009-04-29T01:16:26

A Nigerian court-martial has sentenced 27 former U.N. peacekeepers to life in prison after they were convicted of mutiny following protests that officers had stolen their extra U.N. pay, their lawyer said Tuesday.

The soldiers of the 14th Nigerian Battalion, who had protested by blocking a highway with bonfires and chanting war songs condemning their superiors, were convicted Monday.

They were among more than 800 rank-and-file soldiers who protested last year after they did not receive their U.N. allowances for taking part in a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Liberia. That pay comes on top of their regular Nigerian military salaries.

Their attorney, Femi Falana, vowed to file an appeal at the Nigeria appellate court to challenge the judgment of the court-martial in Akure, Ondo state.

"The soldiers have the legitimate rights to protest the illegal diversion of their allowances," Falana said.

"This money was paid to them by the U.N. and stolen by some military officers," he said. "The officers were not detained for one day."

The officers were later court-martialed and received a reduction in their rank, according to Nigeria Army spokesman Brigadier Chris Olu-Kolade. Their conviction made a provision for refunding the money but it is unclear whether it actually was repaid.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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