Page last updated at 01:46 GMT, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 02:46 UK

Rosenberg evidence kept secret

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in the back of a prison van after their conviction
The couple pleaded their total innocence until the very end

A New York judge has ruled against releasing secret testimony from the spy trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

The couple were convicted of passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union and executed by electric chair in 1953.

Campaigners have sought to challenge the evidence used to convict Ethel Rosenberg after a key witness admitted he fabricated details.

Supporters of the Rosenbergs said the trial was set up amid anti-communist hysteria at the height of the Cold War.

The Rosenbergs' children believe that the US government always held information that raised doubts about the credibility of their convictions.

Notes for KGB

Some scholars have been asking for the release of the secret grand jury testimony - particularly evidence from a key prosecution witness - Ethel's younger brother David Greenglass.

Mr Greenglass, now 86, admitted in interviews for a book published in 2000 that he gave false testimony under pressure from prosecutors. He has however asked for his testimony to remain secret.

Mr Greenglass, a convicted spy, was spared execution for giving a testimony against his sister and spent 10 years in prison.

He claimed that Ethel had typed notes concerning US atomic secrets, which were to be handed over to the KGB.

In his ruling on Tuesday US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein said the public's right to know was outweighed by the tradition of grand jury secrecy.

"He may be a scoundrel, he may be a hypocrite, he may be a liar," Judge Hellerstein said.

But he added, "It's no easy task to compare the value of accountability with grand jury secrecy."

Judge Hellerstein reserved a ruling on whether the transcript would be released following Mr Greenglass' death.

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