The United States has accused Egypt of stifling freedom of speech, following the Egyptian government's arrest of a political satirist for allegedly insulting Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim religion.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Monday said the police action against comedian Bassem Youssef, and arrest warrants issued for several opposition activists, are "evidence of a disturbing trend of growing restrictions on freedom of expression."
Youssef turned himself in for police questioning on Sunday, a day after Egypt's prosecutor general issued the warrant for his arrest. He was released later in the day on a bail of $2,200. The comedian's popular television program regularly mocks President Morsi and other Egyptian leaders.
Nuland said Washington also is concerned that Morsi's government is unfairly targeting its critics for prosecution.
"The government of Egypt seems to be investigating these cases while it has been slow or inadequate in investigating attacks on demonstrators outside of the presidential palace in December 2012, other cases of extreme police brutality and illegally blocked entry of journalists to Media City. There does not seem to be an even-handed application of justice here," she said.
The Egyptian government had no immediate response to the criticism from its key military ally.
Egypt has been in political turmoil since the ouster of longtime autocratic president Hosni Mubarak in a 2011 popular revolution.