Global Politics

Frosty relations between the US and Egypt are further tested by Egypt's crackdown on journalists

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Asmaa Waguih/Reuters

Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, from left, listen to a ruling at a court in Cairo June 23, 2014. The three Al Jazeera journalists were jailed for seven years in Egypt on Monday after the court convicted them of helping a "terrorist organization" by spreading lies, in a case that has raised questions about the country's respect for media freedoms.

For decades, the United States considered Egypt a close ally. But that alliance was showing signs of strain this past year after the Obama adminstration criticized Egypt's human rights record and its crackdown on media.

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Egypt, on the other hand, was criticial of Washington's support of Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Further adding to the strain was a move by the Obama administration to freeze millions of dollars in military and economic aid to Egypt.   

But Secretary of State John Kerry's high-level visit to Cairo over the weekend signaled that Washington was ready to establish better relations. During the trip, he announced the US was releasing 10 Apache attack helicopters and $650 million of aid to Egypt. 

But the warm feelings didn't last long.

Just on the heels of Kerry's visit, three Al Jazeera correspondents — Peter Greste, Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed— were found guilty on Monday of helping a "terrorist organization" by spreading lies. They've been sentenced to seven years in jail for what are widely regarded as trumped-up charges.

The verdict, said Buzzfeed Middle East correspondent Sheera Frenkel, is terrifying for all journalists in Egypt. 

And it may present a new challenge to repairing the relationship between US and Egypt.

The US wants to see Egypt on a democratic path, but there's been case after case of problems. "And this isn't going to help," Frankel said.

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