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US urges Egypt to release Al Jazeera journalists

The US has "deep concerns" about Egypt's detention of three Al-Jazeera English journalists on terrorism-related charges, the State Department said Monday.

"We continue to urge the Egyptian government to respect the freedom of the press, protect civil society, and uphold the rule of law, which is crucial to Egypt's long-term stability," said State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke.

Canadian-Egyptian Mohammed Fahamy, Australia Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohammed, were convicted in June of aiding terrorists and threatening Egypt's national security. They were each given sentences ranging from between seven and 10 years.

"We are watching the trial closely. There is an appeal hearing that is scheduled to happen shortly," Rathke said. "Further, we call on the Egyptian government to consider all available measures for redressing these verdicts."

In January, an Egyptian appeals court is expected to look into an appeal filed against the sentences.

Rathke tried to elude a question about the seemingly U.S. double standard of supplying Egypt with millions of dollars in military assistance while raising concerns about its human rights record.

"I'm not going to pre-judge future actions, but we take the human rights situation in Egypt seriously, as we also take our alliance and partnership with Egypt seriously," he said.

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