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In 1950 the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Julius Rosenberg 1918-53 an electrical engineer who had worked 1940-45 for the US army signal corps and his wife Ethel 1916-53 they were indicted for conspiracy to transmit classified military information to the Soviet Union In the trial that followed Mar 1951 the government charged that in 1944 and 1945 the Rosenbergs had persuaded Ethels brother David Greenglass-an employee at the Los Alamos atomic bomb project-to provide them and a third person Harry Gold with top-secret data on nuclear weapons The chief evidence against the Rosenbergs came from Greenglass and his wife Ruth Both Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were found guilty 1951 and received the death sentence Morton Sobell a codefendant received a 30-year prison term as did Harry Gold and David Greenglass was later sentenced to 15 years imprisonment Despite many court appeals and pleas for executive clemency the Rosenbergs were executed on June 19 1953 They became the first US civilians to suffer the death penalty in an espionage trial The case aroused much controversy Many claimed that the political climate made a fair trial impossible and that the only seriously incriminating evidence had come from a confessed spy others questioned the value of the information transmitted to the Soviet Union and argued that the death penalty was too severe Communists in the United States and abroad organized a campaign to save the Rosenbergs and received the support of many liberals and religious leaders
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