The United States says it is deeply concerned about Egypt's decision to prosecute several journalists and crack down on a human rights group.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said Monday the moves appear to contradict the Egyptian's stated commitment to expand democratic rights.

Earlier Monday, an Egyptian court sentenced three journalists to two years in prison for allegedly publishing lies about Egypt's justice system.

The court in Cairo convicted an editor and two other staff members of the newspaper Al-Wafd for a January 2007 article that quoted Justice Minister Mamdouh Marei as saying 90 percent of Egyptian judges are not capable of doing their jobs. The minister later said he was misquoted.

The Bush administration also criticized Cairo's recent decision to authorize closure of the Association for Human Rights Legal Aid, a nongovernmental organization.

Earlier this month, an Egyptian court sentenced four other journalists to one year in prison on charges of defaming President Hosni Mubarak and his ruling National Democratic Party.

Human rights groups accuse Mr. Mubarak of launching a crackdown on press freedom this year after several years of relative openness. Cairo says its judiciary is independent and not politically-influenced.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.