Man cleared of Malcolm X murder sues New York over wrongful conviction

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NEW YORK — A man who wrongfully served two decades in prison for the 1965 murder of civil rights leader Malcolm X and was exonerated only last year has sued the city and former law enforcement officials involved in the investigation, seeking at least $40 million.

Attorneys for Muhammad A. Aziz filed a case Thursday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, marking the start of a potentially lengthy battle to secure financial compensation for the 84-year-old who was home in the Bronx nursing a leg injury on Feb. 21, 1965, when the historical assassination occurred.

At an emotional court proceeding in November, Aziz was formally cleared of wrongdoing — 55 years after the crime — with the endorsement of then-Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. The occasion followed decades of previous efforts by Aziz and his advocates to try to undo his conviction.

Another innocent man, Khalil Islam, was posthumously exonerated.

“As a result of his wrongful conviction and imprisonment, Mr. Aziz spent 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit and more than 55 years living with the hardship and indignity attendant to being unjustly branded as a convicted murderer of one of the most important civil rights leaders in history,” Aziz’s attorneys David Shanies and Deborah Francois wrote in a 59-page civil complaint.

Aziz, they said, was a 26-year-old father of six when he was charged in Malcolm X’s murder based on active acts of corruption that included witness intimidation and concealing evidence by investigators from the New York Police and FBI, the attorneys said.

The city allowed the immoral and corrupt policies in its policing agenda at the time that led to Aziz’s false arrest and subsequent first-degree murder conviction, and detectives knowingly tossed aside exculpatory information in hasty investigation to make a case against Aziz, according to the lawsuit.

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