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A U.S. Congressman has asked the State Department to release to the family of U.S. Fulbright scholar John Tobin e-mails he wrote before his arrest on marijuana possession and distribution charges in Russia. Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman asked Secretary of State Colin Powell to bring up the Tobin case when Powell meets next week with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. Tobin’s family believes the e-mail messages might bolster his claim that he was contacted by Russian security officers before his arrest and subsequently was set up. “We have reason to believe the e-mail may shed light on that background,” said Rep. James Maloney, whose Connecticut district includes Ridgefield, where the Tobins live. Tobin, 24, was detained Feb. 1 and accused of possessing 0.15 ounces of marijuana at a bar in Voronezh, about 300 miles (480 kilometers) south of Moscow, where he was working on a political science thesis. He was later accused of dealing drugs, a charge punishable by 10 years in prison. Russian officials claimed Tobin had ties to U.S. intelligence services, but in a letter from prison, Tobin claimed security forces tried to recruit him to become a spy. Maloney and the Tobin family say the text of e-mails he sent before his arrest might answer some questions. Tobin apparently sent e-mails to a Russia-based Fulbright coordinator, Joseph McCormick, between Jan. 26 and Feb. 1. McCormick forwarded them to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, according to Maloney’s letter. A State Department spokeswoman said they have not yet seen Maloney’s letter and likely would not comment on it anyway. In his letter to Powell, Lieberman was critical of the State Department’s response to the Tobin case, and asked why no U.S. officials attended Tobin’s trial. “I believe this young man, who received U.S. government sponsorship for his studies in Voronezh, and who has served in the U.S. Army, deserves greater support from our embassy in Moscow,” he wrote. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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