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Exiting Obama does not act on request to exonerate Ethel Rosenberg

Ethel Rosenberg was seen in a car as she started her trip to Sing Sing prison in 1951.
Ethel Rosenberg was seen in a car as she started her trip to Sing Sing prison in 1951. (Anthony Camerano/Associated press)

EASTHAMPTON — The sons of accused spy Ethel Rosenberg say they will not give up on their quest to have their mother exonerated, after President Obama left office without acting on their bid.

“We always felt it was a longshot: a shot worth taking at the right time with the best person that was available,” said Robert Meeropol of Easthampton, the younger of Rosenberg’s two sons who have worked for the past 40 years to find the truth about the trial and subsequent execution of their mother and father Julius in 1953.

The Rosenbergs were executed by electric chair after their convictions of conspiring to pass atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, but new evidence suggested Ethel Rosenberg was framed.

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More than 60,000 people had signed a petition supporting the Meeropols’ request. They also had gained support from filmmaker Michael Moore and US Representative Jim McGovern and Richard Neal and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey.

The Meeropols acknowledge that their quest could get even harder, with a new administration coming in.

“I’m not interested in banging my head against the wall, so I don’t think it’s worth bringing before Trump, but the future stretches in front of us,” said Robert Meeropol, 69.

He said the campaign to exonerate their mother served an important purpose in educating a new generation of Americans about the case, as well as about the dangers of government overreach and has resonance today, with Donald Trump now in the White House.

“It looks like we are on the verge of possibly entering another era that the courts are going to be used in the same manner that they were in the McCarthy era,” Meeropol said.

He said he will be marching in Boston on Saturday to protest Trump policies.

The brothers’ efforts on behalf of their mother was energized over the past two years with the release of previously sealed documents which revealed that the prosecution faked evidence used to send their mother to the electric chair.

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During their work to uncover the truth about their parents, the Meeropol brothers ultimately became convinced that their father had been involved in spy activity — although they maintain that he did not share atomic secrets with the Soviet Union, as the government had alleged.

However, they continued to believe in their mother’s innocence, based on interviews with her brother, David Greenglass. Greenglass, whose testimony helped convict Ethel Rosenberg, admitted in a televised interview that he lied on the witness stand in order to protect his wife, Ruth Greenglass.