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Freed American student John Tobin arrived at Moscow’s main international airport Wednesday, heading for home in the United States following his release last week from a Russian jail. Standing in line to go through Russian customs at Sheremetyevo-2 airport, Tobin said he was looking forward to seeing family and friends and that the thing he most wanted when he got back was a hamburger. Russian authorities Friday released Tobin after the 24-year-old had served half of a one-year sentence on charges of possession of marijuana. Tobin has denied the charges and pleaded innocent at his trial. Tobin was to board a Delta Air Lines flight bound for New York on Wednesday afternoon. His departure will remove a major irritant in U.S.-Russian relations over the past six months. Following his release from prison in the small southern Russian town of Rossosh, Tobin traveled to Moscow, where he concluded the paperwork needed to get a Russian exit visa. Tobin has not spoken to reporters about his imprisonment since he was released. At the airport, he said he would hold a question-and-answer session once he returned to the United States. Russian officials arrested Tobin in January in Voronezh, where he was studying at the local university, for possession of marijuana. The case gained wide attention after an official of the Federal Security Service, the main successor to the KGB, said the American was believed to be training to be a spy. The initial charges against Tobin included allegations he had operated a drug den and had obtained marijuana as part of a criminal gang. However, the prosecutor in the trial accused police of overstating the amount of drugs Tobin was found with and recommended those charges be dropped. Tobin was sentenced to 37 months for possession, but a higher court reduced that sentence to a year and he became eligible for parole after serving half that sentence. President Bush raised the case with President Vladimir Putin during a meeting in July. Tobin was freed the day after authorities at the prison colony in the southern town of Rossosh recommended the move Friday. His father, John Tobin Sr. has said his son claimed the Russian intelligence service tried to recruit him as an agent and that he believed he was arrested because he had refused. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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