INTRODUCTION: A Jewish activist who spent 11 years in Soviet labour camps for trying to hijack a Russian plane to the West is now a free man.
GV Aircraft arriving at Ben Gurion airport with officials waiting. (2 SHOTS)
GV Mendelevich down steps of aircraft.
SV Mendelevich walks across tarmac and drinks toast with officials. (2 SHOTS)
GV INTERIOR Reception for Mendelevich.
SV Presentation to Mendelevich. (2 SHOTS)
GV Party leaves.
SV Mendelevich with family.
SV Mendelevich being carried on shoulders of friends.
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Background: INTRODUCTION: A Jewish activist who spent 11 years in Soviet labour camps for trying to hijack a Russian plane to the West is now a free man. Josef Mendelevich received an emotional welcome when he arrived in Israel on Wednesday (18 February) after his release earlier the same day.
SYNOPSIS: Relatives, cabinet ministers and members of the hijack group, were among large crowd waiting in Tel Aviv for his arrival. Mendelevich is the ninth and last Jewish member of the group to be released. Two non-Jews are still being held in Soviet camps. Mr. Mendelevich's release came as a surprise after his sister recently announced he'd disappeared from his camp.
Josef Mendelevich looked fit and well despite reports that his health collapsed after a long hunger strike. According to his sister, he refused to eat camp food which was not Koshen, and subsisted on bread and water. He started the hunger strike last October for better conditions in the labour camp.
Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin hailed Mendelevich's release as a great event for the Jewish people. He said his government received hints two days earlier that the prisoner might be freed. But he wouldn't say where the hints came from or how the release was achieved.
Mr. Mendelevich was brought to Moscow on Tuesday (17 February) without being told he was to be released. The two leaders of the hijack group were exchanged for two Russians serving 50-year prison sentences in the United States.