Man exonerated in Malcolm X murder sues New York state

New York (AFP) – One of two men wrongfully imprisoned for decades over the 1965 assassination of civil rights leader Malcolm X sued New York state for at least $20 million in damages Tuesday.


Muhammad A. Aziz was exonerated last month by a US judge who acknowledged he had been the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice in the high-profile murder.

"Those responsible for depriving me of my liberty and for depriving my family of a husband, a father, and a grandfather should be held accountable," Aziz, 83, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

He also notified New York City that he plans to sue it for $40 million unless an agreement on damages is made within 90 days.

His lawyers said they would file similar lawsuits on behalf of the family of Khalil Islam, the second man wrongfully convicted. He died in 2009.

For more than half a century the official record held that three members of the Black nationalist group Nation of Islam, which Malcolm X had recently renounced, shot the iconic leader when he arrived to speak at the podium of a Harlem ballroom.

Aziz, Islam and a third man, Mujahid Abdul Halim, were convicted in 1966 -- but historians have long cast doubt on that thesis.

Halim -- now 80 and released from prison in 2010 -- confessed to the murder but maintained the innocence of the other two.

In 2020, the case was reopened following the release of a Netflix docuseries "Who Killed Malcolm X?"

This Library of Congress handout photo shows Martin Luther King, Jr.(L) and fellow civil rights leader Malcolm X in 1964
This Library of Congress handout photo shows Martin Luther King, Jr.(L) and fellow civil rights leader Malcolm X in 1964 MARION S. TRIKOSKO THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS/AFP/File

The 22-month investigation conducted jointly by the Manhattan district attorney's office and lawyers for the two men found that prosecutors, the FBI and the New York Police Department withheld evidence that would likely have led to their acquittal.

Aziz was sentenced to life in prison in 1966 but was released in 1985. Also sentenced to life, Islam was released in 1987.

New York Judge Ellen Biben granted the exonerations of Aziz and Islam on November 18 to a burst of applause from the courtroom.

The investigation did not identify the assassins or offer an alternative explanation for the murder.

Born Malcolm Little in 1925, Malcolm X became one of the most influential civil rights leaders of the 20th century along with Martin Luther King Jr.