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US hits Egyptian jail sentences for Americans

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt on Sunday, March 3, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt on Sunday, March 3, 2013.
Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is condemning Egyptian convictions and jail sentences against 43 nonprofit workers, including 16 Americans, after what the U.S. considered a "politically motivated trial."

Secretary of State John Kerry says the convictions on allegations of using foreign funds to foment unrest in Egypt violate freedom of expression and undercut the country's democratic transition.

The jail sentences handed down Tuesday range up to five years. Most of the Americans, including the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, already had left the country. One American, Robert Becker, stayed in Egypt.

Kerry said the U.S. was deeply concerned by the guilty verdicts and sentences. He said civic groups play a key role in democracies and urged Egypt's government to address its people's democratic aspirations as demanded by the constitution.