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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tobin's Mother Visits Her Son in Jail

VORONEZH, Central Russia — The mother of American Fulbright exchange student John Tobin, who was convicted on drug charges, met Thursday with her jailed son and said he was "in good spirits."

Alyce Van Etten and her husband, Jan, flew to Voronezh for a brief meeting with her 24-year-old son. He was arrested Feb. 1 for possession of a small amount of marijuana and sentenced last month to 37 months in prison.

The Van Ettens pinned yellow ribbons to their chests during the hourlong plane ride from Moscow to Voronezh, an industrial city about 475 kilometers south of Moscow, to signify their hope that the son they call Jack would soon return home.

"I am here to see my son, whom I have not seen or spoken to in three and a half months," Alyce Van Etten said outside the jail where Tobin is being held. "This is going to be a very difficult day for me. When I come out of the prison today, I am not going to know when I am going to speak to or see my son again."

But she emerged from a two-hour meeting in the jail with a wide smile.

"Jack is fine. He's in good spirits; he's in really good spirits. It was great to see him," she said. "He feels good. He looks pale, he's thin, he doesn't get to see the light of day very much, but he's in good spirits and it was very comforting for both of us."

"The conditions he's in are not very good, but he's handling it very well," she said before boarding a plane back to Moscow on Thursday night. The Van Ettens were to stay in Moscow for meetings with U.S. Embassy officials.

Tobin's mother said her son has contracted Lyme disease, and that efforts are being made to treat him. Lyme disease, usually transmitted by ticks and treated with antibiotics, causes fatigue, fever and joint pain.

Tobin was doing political research at Voronezh State University. He was also convicted of illegally obtaining and distributing marijuana. Tobin has insisted on his innocence.