US judge exonerates two men found guilty of Malcolm X murder

Muhammad Aziz poses for photos outside the New York courthouse after being exonerated. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - A New York judge on Thursday (Nov 18) threw out the convictions of two men who spent decades in jail for the 1965 assassination of civil rights leader Malcolm X.

Calling the prosecution of the high-profile murder a "miscarriage of justice," Judge Ellen Biben granted the exonerations of Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam, who died in 2009, to a burst of applause from those in the courtroom.

"There can be no question that this is a case that cries out for fundamental justice," Biben told the court before ordering the convictions be vacated, a move that rewrites the history of one of the US civil rights movement's deepest wounds.

"I regret that this court cannot fully undo the serious miscarriages of justice in this case and give you back the many years that were lost," the judge said to Aziz and the family of Islam.

"The dismissal of the indictment is the full extent of this court's authority."

The motion to exonerate the men, both of whom were released from jail in the mid-1980s, was jointly submitted by their defence teams and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who apologised on behalf of the law enforcement community for a "decades-long injustice."

Vance told the court that after a 22-month investigation into the convictions it became "clear these men did not receive a fair trial."

"I want to begin by saying directly to Mr Aziz and his family, and the family of Mr Islam, and of Malcolm X that I apologise," Vance said to begin the hearing.

"We can't restore what was taken from these men and their families, but by correcting the record, perhaps we can begin to restore that faith."

Khalil Islam's sons wait to enter the courtroom to hear the decision about their father on Nov 18, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

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