Two men who were convicted of the assassination of civil rights leader Malcolm X in 1965 have had their convictions overturned 56 years later.
Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam have been declared innocent following a 22-month investigation conducted by the Manhattan District Attorney.
Sawn-Off Shot Gun
Malcolm X was attending a rally of the Organisation of African-American Unity at the Audubson Ballroom in Manhattan on 21 February 1965 when he was shot dead by a gunman armed with a sawn-off shotgun.
Aziz, now aged 83, was originally sentenced to life in prison in 1966 but was released in 1985. Islam was also given a life sentence but was released in 1987. He died however, in 2009.
Mujahid Abdul Halim, now aged 80, did confess to the murder of Malcolm X but was released from prison in 2010. Halim, however, always stated that Aziz and Islam were innocent or any involvement in the assassination.
The Nation of Islam
At the time of the murder, all three men were members of the Black nationalist group, the Nation of Islam. Malcolm X too had been a high-profile member of the Nation of Islam but had renounced the group shortly before he was killed.
On February 19, 1965, Malcolm X told an interviewer that the Nation of Islam was actively trying to kill him.
The new inquiry conducted by Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan District Attorney, work with lawyers for the two men acquitted, found that the state prosecutors at the time, the FBI and New York Police Department had withheld evidence that would have in all likelihood resulted in the acquittal of the two men.
Announcing the exoneration at a press conference, Cyrus Vance said, “These men did not get justice. What we can do is acknowledge the … severity of the errors”.
The case review did not identify who prosecutors now believe really killed Malcolm X. Those who were previously implicated but never arrested are dead.
Malcolm X visited Kenya in 1959 and met with Pio Gama Pinto who was also assassinated, on February 25 1965, just three days after Malcolm X was shot dead.