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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Warm Welcome For Pope

PORTLAND, Oregon - Edmond Pope, returning to the United States after eight months' imprisonment in Russia on an espionage charge, enjoyed a surprise reunion with his elderly mother at Portland International Airport.

What he wanted most was to relax, the 54-year-old Pope said late Sunday. "I'm going to get with family. I have a million things to do. But family is first."

Instead of waiting for her son to make the five-hour trip from Portland to her home in Grants Pass in southern Oregon, Elizabeth Pope, 80, came to meet him. Pope's 76-year-old father, gravely ill with cancer, did not make the trip.

Pope had not been told his mother would be at the airport.

A handful of well-wishers cheered as he came into view, holding up signs saying "Welcome Back Ed" and "The Pope is Back."

Pope was convicted of illegally obtaining classified blueprints of a high-speed underwater torpedo. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, then quickly pardoned.

Pope argued in vain that the plans were not secret because they had already been published and sold abroad. His company, CERF Technologies International, specializes in information about foreign maritime technology.

"What a tremendous Christmas present for him, his family, his mom and especially his dad," said fellow Oregon State University graduate John Kirkland. The two served together at the Pentagon in the late 1970s when both were naval officers.

Pope's mother was escorted through the boarding gate to the door of the airplane, where she was able to welcome her son in private. She had not seen him for more than a year.

Pope and his wife, Cheri, plan to spend several days at his parents' home in Grants Pass before leaving for their home in State College, Pennsylvania, for Christmas.

Convicted in Russia on Dec. 6, Pope was pardoned Thursday by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Pope said that while in prison he was "in isolation most of the time. So I didn't know much about what was going on, and I certainly didn't know the truth about what was going on."

Pope said he has begun a book about his ordeal. Pope credited his wife, who pressured Congress and Presidents Bill Clinton and Putin, for his release.

A Putin spokesman has said Pope was pardoned on humanitarian grounds and to preserve good relations with Washington.

After his pardon, Pope was flown to a U.S. military hospital in Germany for medical tests. Pope, who has suffered from a rare form of bone cancer, fell ill again while imprisoned. He did not comment on his medical condition Sunday.

Air Force Capt. Andrew Reynolds, Pope's physician at the military hospital, said it is unclear whether Pope's bone cancer is recurring. But he said Pope may have acquired a potentially lethal skin cancer during his imprisonment in the Lefortovo jail.

Pope appeared to be in good shape Sunday, if a little tired.

Pope began active duty in the Navy in 1969, retiring as a captain in 1994. He then worked as an engineer at Pennsylvania State University's Applied Research Laboratory, which performs research for the military.