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U.S. Student Faces Trial in Russia

April 6, 2001

MOSCOW (AP) _ The trial of a U.S. exchange student charged with selling marijuana in a central Russian city will open April 24, officials said Friday.

Fulbright scholar John Tobin could face between eight and 15 years in prison if convicted, Andrei Makarov an investigator with the Federal Security Service in the city of Voronezh said, according to the ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agencies.

But security service spokesman Pavel Bolshunov said Tobin could appeal to President Vladimir Putin for pardon, or could be extradited to serve his sentence in the United States, Interfax news agency reported.

Tobin, a 24-year-old from Ridgefield, Conn., was arrested last month on charges of drug possession, but was later accused of dealing drugs, then of dealing drugs as part of a criminal gang.

The case, coming amid a spy dispute between Russia and the United States, attracted attention after officials in Moscow claimed he had U.S. intelligence training. No espionage charges have been filed.

The Voronezh security service say they are looking for another American suspect in the case, who also visited Voronezh, a city 300 miles south of Moscow, but is now believed to outside Russia, possibly in the United States.

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