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Men exonerated in Malcolm X killing to receive $36m from New York

Both Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam spent over 20 years in prison, always maintaining that they did not murder civil rights leader Malcolm X
Muhammad Aziz stands outside a New York City courthouse with members of his family and lawyers after his conviction in the killing of Malcolm X was thrown out, on 18 November 2021 (AFP)

New York City has agreed to pay $26m to the two men wrongly convicted and imprisoned for the murder of Malcolm x in 1965. The state of New York agreed to pay an additional $10m in the lawsuits filed by them.

Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam both maintained that they did not assassinate civil rights leader Malcolm X over the 20 years they spent in prison. Islam died in 2009.

The fraught and unforgettable: How Malcolm X's legacy lives on in America
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"The tragedy of Malcolm X's murder was felt all over the world, and compounded by the fact that it led to the convictions and imprisonment of two innocent, young, Black men in America," their lawyer David Shanies said in a statement Sunday. 

"Today we acknowledge that injustice and take a modest step toward rectifying it."

Attorneys for Aziz and Islam said in complaints that both Aziz and Islam were at their homes in the Bronx when Malcolm X was killed, NPR reported. "They said Aziz spent 20 years in prison and more than 55 years living with the hardship and indignity attendant to being unjustly branded as a convicted murderer of one of the most important civil rights leaders in history."

In the mid-1980s, both Aziz and Islam were released from prison. But it was in November 2021 that their names were fully cleared by the New York Supreme Court, which said their convictions were “a failure of justice”.

In 2021, a judge in Manhattan dismissed the men’s convictions after prosecutors said there was new evidence of witness intimidation, which undermined the case against the men. 

At the time, Cyrus Vance Jr, who was the district attorney, apologised for law enforcement’s 
“serious, unacceptable violations of law and the public trust".

Malcolm X, also known as El Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, was born Malcolm Little in 1925. In 1946, he was imprisoned for robbery. In prison, he was introduced to the Nation of Islam (NOI), a radical Black Muslim movement, and became influenced by the teachings of its leader Elijah Muhammad.

Imam Omar Suleiman told MEE in 2019 that “Islam in America as we know it, wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Malcolm”.

He was assassinated at the age of 39 by three men who opened fire on him in New York City, as he was preparing to make an address at the Audobon Ballroom. 

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