Two men convicted of killing Malcolm X to be exonerated

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Watch: Men to be cleared in Malcolm X assassination

Two of the three men convicted of killing civil rights activist Malcolm X in 1965 will be exonerated.

Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam were arrested and sentenced to life in prison in 1966 after the assassination, along with Mujahid Abdul Halim.

All three of them were members of the Nation of Islam, an African-American Muslim group that espoused black separatism and was led by Malcolm X until he broke with the movement in 1964.

The human rights activist was killed on 21 February 1965 at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City, where hundreds had gathered to hear him speak.

Inside the ballroom, several men opened fire, striking him onstage.

Halim admitted to playing a role in the murder but maintained that Mr Aziz and Mr Islam had not taken part in it, according to the Innocence Project.

Mr Islam died in 2009, but Mr Aziz, now 83, continued to fight to clear his record.

The decision to throw out their convictions follows a 22-month investigation which found that authorities withheld evidence that would have helped the defendants, their lawyers said.

Mr Aziz called his conviction "the result of a process that was corrupt to its core - one that is all too familiar" even today.

"I do not need a court, prosecutors or a piece of paper to tell me I am innocent," he said in a statement.

But he said he was relieved that his family, friends and lawyers would see "the truth we have all known, officially recognised".

He called on the criminal justice system to "take responsibility for the immeasurable harm it caused me".

In 2020, a Netflix documentary series entitled "Who Killed Malcolm X?" raised enough questions about the case that Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance announced he was going to review the men's convictions.

"These men did not get the justice that they deserved," Mr Vance told The New York Times.

Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck called the case "one of the most blatant miscarriages of justice that I have ever seen".

Issues raised in the Netflix series include Mr Aziz's alibi. He had injured his leg and gone to a hospital only hours before the assassination. A doctor who treated him had taken the stand in his defence.

"The day of the murder, which was a Sunday morning, I was laying over the couch with my foot up and I heard it over the radio," Mr Aziz recalled.

Halim eventually revealed his co-conspirators in the assassination.

In 1978, he identified four other men he said were involved.

But a judge at the time rejected a motion to toss out Mr Aziz and Mr Islam's convictions, according to the Innocence Project.

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