Malcolm X’s Murder: Muhammad Aziz, Nation of Islam member, sues U.S. for wrongful conviction

Muhammad A. Aziz, a former member of the U.S. group Nation of Islam, who had previously served time for the murder of Malcolm X before his conviction was overturned in 2021, has initiated a lawsuit in a federal court in New York against the American government, majorly the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Mr Aziz’s suit, filed on Thursday, accuses the FBI of concealing crucial evidence that could have potentially bolstered his claim of innocence in the murder case and prevented him from spending over 20 years in prison.

The lawsuit, targeting a cohort of 19 FBI officials and claiming $40 million in damages, levels severe accusations against leading FBI figures, including the late J. Edgar Hoover.

The suit alleges that these high-ranking officials were involved in a persistent “pattern and practice” of orchestrating “miscarriages of justice.”

Mr Hoover, recognised for orchestrating surveillance and harassment campaigns against civil rights movement leaders, wielded authoritative control over the bureau for almost half a century until his death in 1972.

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The legal action includes additional filings on behalf of Khalil Islam’s estate. Mr Islam, who was also wrongly convicted of Malcolm X’s murder, died in 2009, more than a decade before his exoneration.

Mr Aziz, 85, and Mr Islam’s estate had previously secured settlements totalling $36 million from New York City and the state. These settlements aimed to address the roles played by the police and the Manhattan district attorney’s office in their unjust convictions.

During their 1966 trial, the FBI had in its possession a “tremendous” volume of evidence questioning the guilt of Messrs Aziz and Isam in the assassination of Malcolm X, according to lawsuits filed in the Manhattan federal court.

However, a recent investigation leading to their exoneration uncovered deliberate efforts by the FBI to withhold crucial exculpatory evidence from law enforcement and prosecutors. J. Edgar Hoover allegedly directed some of these actions.

The investigation also implicated the bureau in instructing murder witnesses, who were FBI informants, to refrain from disclosing their engagement with the agency to police investigators.

The mystery of Malcolm X’s assassination has intensified with the vindication of Messrs Aziz and Islam.

Despite persistent appeals from historians and activists for a thorough investigation, the U.S. Congress has consistently resisted, choosing to keep crucial details of the case concealed within the FBI’s files.

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