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Two men convicted of Malcolm X murder to have convictions overturned

circa 1963: American civil rights leader Malcolm X (1925 - 1965) at an outdoor rally, probably in New York City. (Photo by Bob Parent/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
American civil rights leader Malcolm X (1925 - 1965) at an outdoor rally, probably in New York City [Bob Parent/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]

Two men who were convicted of the murder of Black leader, Malcolm X, in the 1960s will have their convictions overturned, according to a report published on Wednesday, Anadolu News Agency reports.

Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam's convictions will be thrown out on Thursday, lawyers for the men and the Manhattan District Attorney told the New York Times newspaper.

The decision "represents a remarkable acknowledgment of grave errors made in a case of towering importance: the 1965 murder of one of America's most influential Black leaders in the fight against racism," the Times reported.

The pending decision comes after a 22-month investigation conducted by the district attorney and the men's attorneys, which determined the FBI and New York Police Department failed to turn over key evidence that would have resulted in their acquittal.

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They have spent decades behind bars for Malcolm X's February 1965 murder, which occurred in Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom when three men opened fire in the venue as he was speaking.

The investigation did not name who actually fired the fatal shots, nor did it discover evidence of a police or government conspiracy, the Times reported.

Cyrus Vance, Jr., the incumbent district attorney in Manhattan, apologised for the failures that led to Aziz and Islam's convictions and imprisonment. He acknowledged, however that there is nothing that could remedy the shortcomings, but said "what we can do is acknowledge the error, the severity of the error."

"This points to the truth that law enforcement over history has often failed to live up to its responsibilities," Vance said in an interview with the newspaper. "These men did not get the justice that they deserved."

The investigation discovered FBI documents that would have led investigators away from Aziz and Islam, and prosecutors' notes suggested they failed to disclose that undercover police were in attendance at the Audubon Ballroom when the shooting took place.

A living witness also corroborated Aziz's alibi, namely that he had been at home nursing wounded legs at the time of the shooting.

Aziz was released in 1985 while Islam was freed in 1987, later dying in 2009.

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