US woman, 98, fights to expunge Soviet spying conviction

NEW YORK (AFP) - A 98-year-old US woman who was convicted in 1950 for involvement in an explosive Soviet spying case wants a federal court to finally clear her name, citing new evidence.

Ms Miriam Moskowitz spent two years languishing in jail for conspiring to obstruct justice in a case linked to the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of delivering nuclear military secrets to the Soviet Union and executed in 1953.

Ms Moskowitz appeared in Manhattan Federal Court on Monday with her lawyer attempting to bring the case back to the docket and get the conviction thrown out. "By this petition, the court has the opportunity to correct a miscarriage of justice from the McCarthy era, of which Ms Moskowitz is perhaps the last living victim," her attorney Guy Eddon said in court documents.

McCarthyism refers to allegations of treason or subversion without proof, and was coined after former US senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist witch-hunts from the late 1940s to the 1950s.

Ms Moskowitz, her boss Abraham Brothman and another man named Harry Gold were convicted for conspiring to lie to a grand jury. Gold had at first testified that Ms Moskowitz knew nothing about the matter, but when threatened with the death penalty changed his story at the trial.

According to Ms Moskowitz's lawyer, evidence had emerged since the 1950 conviction showing that a "fundamental error" had occurred. He said that government records held "critical and exculpatory evidence" that had been kept from the defence for 60 years. The documents were declassified in 2008 and contained record of Gold's contradictory statements to the FBI.

"The grand jury minutes as well as the FBI's own reports, which under less antiquated laws would have been produced to the defense, reveal that Harry Gold lied at trial," the petition said. It added that "Ms Moskowitz continues to suffer legal consequences from her conviction" and had "lived a lifetime in the shadow of her felony conviction."

This contributed to her failure to marry and have children, as well as financial difficulties and social stigmatization, it said.

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