An 83-year-old man who must finally be cleared of Malcolm X’s murder has said he doesn’t need “a court or a piece of paper” to tell him he’s innocent.
Muhammad Aziz and the late Khalil Islam were convicted in 1966 for shooting the Nation of Islam spokesperson and civil rights activist the previous year in Harlem.
There have long been questions about the fairness of the conviction, and both men had always insisted on their innocence and had been trapped by the authorities.
This week it was reported that six decades after the Audubon Ballroom murder in Harlem, the office of Manhattan’s highest attorney, Cyrus Vance, was due to file a petition in a New York court, overturning the convictions. and exonerating Mr. Aziz. and Mr. Islam, who died in 2009.
“Although I don’t need a court, prosecutors, or a piece of paper to tell me that I am innocent, I am happy that my family, friends and the lawyers who have helped and supported me all these years are finally seeing the truth. we have all known, officially recognized, ”said Mr. Aziz in a statement released by his lawyers.
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He added: “The events that brought us here should never have happened; these events were and are the result of a process that was corrupt in its essence – a process that is all too familiar – even in 2021. ”
Lawyers in Mr Vance’s office are expected to join lawyers for the two men in filing a motion to quash the convictions on Thursday.
Malcolm X rose to prominence as the voice of the Nation of Islam, speaking of the importance for blacks to claim their civil rights “by any means necessary”, and his role in the Black Muslim organization was very visible. .
But he broke up with the group and after a trip to Mecca, began to talk about the potential for racial unity. Some members of the organization turned on him and called him a traitor.
He was shot on the evening of February 21, 1965, just as he was due to begin a speech at the Audubon Ballroom. The building, located at the junction of Broadway and West 165th St, currently contains the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center in its lobby to commemorate the leader’s contribution to the civil rights movement.
Mr Vance’s cabinet review of the case follows a documentary that aired on Netflix last year, Who killed Malcolm X? hosted by academic Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, who pleaded for the innocence of the two men.
Mr. Aziz was paroled in 1985, and Islam was also paroled two years later. Both men continued to press for their names to be deleted.
A third man, Mujahid Abdul Halim, also known as Talmadge Hayer and Thomas Hagan, admitted his role in the murder and was convicted of the murder. He testified that neither of the other two men was involved.
Vanessa Potkin, an attorney for New York-based Project Innocence, a non-profit organization that helped investigate the case, said the new investigation “uncovered evidence of Mr. Aziz’s innocence. and Mr. Islam who had been hidden by the New York Police Department and the FBI ”.
He said the information “also highlights the many unanswered questions about the government’s complicity in the assassination – a separate and important issue which itself requires further investigation.”
David Shanies, a lawyer who worked to erase the names of the two men, said: “This marks an important and long overdue step. These innocent men have lived the agony of decades in prison for a crime they did not commit. They were deprived of their liberty in the prime of their lives and labeled the murderers of an imposing civil rights leader.
In his statement, Mr Aziz said he did not know how many years he had left to “be creative”.
He said: “I hope the same system that was responsible for this travesty of justice will also take responsibility for the immeasurable harm it has caused me.”
Additional reporting by Associated Press
The Independent Gt