By Steve Neavling
A man who was exonerated in the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X is suing the federal government, alleging the FBI withheld evidence that would have proved he was innocent.
Muhammed Aziz, one of three men convicted in the first-degree murder of the civil rights leader in 1966, is seeking $40 million in compensation and names at least 19 FBI officials, The New York Times reports.
According to the suit, filed Thursday, top bureau officials, including former director J. Edgar Hoover, engaged in a “pattern and practice” of “causing miscarriages in justice.”
Aziz spent more than 20 years in prison before he was exonerated in 2021 after District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said a 22-month investigation revealed that law enforcement withheld evidence in the trial of Aziz and Khalil Islam, who died in 2009. Both men have maintained their innocence from the beginning.
The estate of Islam filed a companion lawsuit.
Thomas Hagan, who also was convicted in the murder, confessed to the killing during his trial but was adamant that the two other men were not involved.
Malcolm X was delivering a speech when he was fatally shot at New York’s Audubon Ballroom on Feb. 21, 1965.
New York City and the state of New York agreed to pay Aziz and Islam’s estate a total of $36 million to resolve previous lawsuits.
David Shanies, a lawyer for Aziz and Islam’s estate, said he hopes the lawsuit reveals what really happened when Malcolm X was assassinated.
“Why would the F.B.I. intentionally cover up the evidence of these men’s innocence and knowingly let them take the fall?” he said. “What were they protecting?”
The bureau and the Justice Department declined to comment on the lawsuits.