US criticizes Egypt for giving jail sentences to Americans

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.

White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the U.S. is deeply concerned by the court ruling. She says it undermines universal human rights protections and calls into question whether Egypt's government is committed to supporting a civil society.

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 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.