The United States welcomed Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's pardoning of 100 prisoners on Wednesday, including Al-Jazeera's broadcast journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, as well as some prominent youth activists.
"These pardons are a positive step for the freedoms of press and expression, which, as we have long maintained, are essential for a stable, prosperous, and democratic Egypt," State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement on Thursday.
The pardon, which also included sick and elderly prisoners, coincided with the Muslim holiday Eid Al-Adha.
The pardon also came ahead of El-Sisi's visit to New York, where he is scheduled to attend and give a speech in front of the United Nations' 70th General Assembly on Friday.
Mohamed Fahmy was sentenced to three years in prison last month. He was jailed on charges including joining an outlawed group -- the Muslim Brotherhood -- obstructing governmental institutions and law, attacking the personal liberty of citizens, and harming national unity and social peace.
Al-Jazeera's Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed, who was charged in the same case, was also pardoned. He was sentenced to three years in prison on charges of aiding the Brotherhood and was handed an extra six-month term for his alleged possession of a spent bullet casing.
Sanaa Seif, 21-year-old political activist and daughter of late prominent human rights advocate and lawyer Ahmed Seif El-Islam, and Yara Sallam, a human right advocate, were also pardoned.
The two were among 21 activists sentenced to prison in October 2014 for violating Egypt's protest law after taking a part in a march that was heading to the presidential palace in June 2014 to protest against the same legislation.