Congresswoman Giffords to visit Tucson this weekend

PHOENIX Fri Jun 17, 2011 7:56pm EDT

U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords smiles at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, the day after the launch of Endeavour and the day before her cranioplasty, in this May 17, 2011 photo released on her Facebook page June 12, 2011. REUTERS/P.K. Weis/SouthwestPhotoBank.com

U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords smiles at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, the day after the launch of Endeavour and the day before her cranioplasty, in this May 17, 2011 photo released on her Facebook page June 12, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/P.K. Weis/SouthwestPhotoBank.com

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PHOENIX (Reuters) - Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is returning home to Tucson for the weekend for the first time since she left the state for treatment after she was shot in the head in January, her office said on Friday.

The Arizona Democrat, who was discharged on Wednesday from a Houston hospital, will not make any public appearances or grant interviews during the visit, and instead plans to see family, her office said.

"We've been dreaming of this trip for some time," Giffords' husband, Navy Captain Mark Kelly, said in a statement.

"Gabby misses Tucson very much and her doctors have said that returning to her hometown could play an important role in her recovery. It is sure to be very emotional," he said.

Giffords was shot in the head at close range by a gunman who opened fire at her and a crowd of bystanders at a political gathering on January 8 outside a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona.

Twelve other victims were wounded, and six were killed, including a federal judge, a young girl and a Giffords aide.

Jared Loughner, a 22-year-old college dropout charged with the shooting, was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial and sent to a Missouri hospital for federal prisoners last month.

Giffords, after receiving care at a Tucson hospital, was flown to Houston on January 21 to be treated at TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital. Since then, she has left Houston twice.

In April, she flew to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the planned launch of the space shuttle Endeavour commanded by Kelly, who is a NASA astronaut.

When the launch was delayed, she flew back to Houston and returned to Florida for the successful May 16 take-off of Endeavour. The space shuttle returned to Florida on June 1.

Earlier this week, the first photographs of Giffords since the shooting were posted on her Facebook page.

(Reporting by David Schwartz and Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Peter Bohan)

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