In 1970, nine Soviet Jews were convicted in Leningrad of hijacking a civilian airplane six months earlier. The hijackers were a group of Soviet refuseniks (one was a former military pilot) who tried to escape to the West, in order to avoid harsh Soviet discrimination against Jews. Even though the attempt was unsuccessful, and was followed immediately by crackdown on Jewish and dissident movement throughout the USSR, it drew international attention to human rights violations in the USSR and resulted in a temporary loosening of emigration restrictions. The accused were charged with high treason, punishable by the death sentence. Included in this group was Yosef Mendelevitch, who in 1981 was released and joined his family in Israel, where he became an inspiring figure in the movement for traditional Jewish values.