- A senior US prosecutor says two men convicted of the murder in 1965 of Black nationalist leader and human rights activist Malcolm X are to have their convictions quashed.
Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam did not get the justice they deserved, the Manhattan District Attorney says.
Prosecutor Cyrus Vance Jr told the New York Times that the FBI and police had withheld evidence that would have likely resulted in their acquittal.
Malcolm X was shot dead by several assailants in New York as he addressed a political gathering in a Harlem ballroom in front of his family in February 1965.
One of the gunmen, Thomas Hagan, was captured by the crowd and subsequently rescued by police.
Aziz and Islam, along with Hagan, were convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison.
The three men – members of the religious movement, the Nation of Islam – have all since been paroled. Islam died in 2009.
Hagan stated in a 1977 affidavit that he had planned the assassination with four others after Malcolm X’s public criticism of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.
Hagan had made it clear Aziz and Islam had nothing to do with the assassination.
Malcolm X was forced to leave the group after clashing with Muhammad over his political statements and increasing hostility of other Muslim ministers in the organisation towards him.
One of Malcolm X’s senior bodyguards inside the ballroom that evening he was shot dead was a police agent.
In an interview with the New York Times newspaper, Vance apologised on behalf of the law enforcement agencies, saying they had failed Aziz’s and Islam’s families.
“This points to the truth that law enforcement over history has often failed to live up to its responsibilities.
“These men did not get the justice that they deserved.”
Vance tweeted that more information would be given tomorrow (NZT).
In 2020, the Manhattan District Attorney launched a review of the convictions after meeting representatives of the Innocence Project, a non-profit legal group campaigning for justice for individuals it said had been wrongly convicted.
Earlier this year Malcolm X’s daughters requested that the murder investigation be reopened in light of new evidence.
They cited a deathbed letter from a man who was a policeman at the time of the 1965 killing, alleging New York police and the FBI conspired in the murder.
Malcolm X was a charismatic advocate for black empowerment. After years as the prominent spokesman for the Nation of Islam – which advocated separatism for black Americans – his views evolved and he became receptive to forming allegiances with others in the US civil rights movement.
He embraced a more universal Muslim worldview after visiting Mecca, and returned to the US denouncing all forms of racial exclusivity.
He was 39 when he was killed.