They are no longer Malcolm X’s assassins. Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam did not fire the shots that were fatal to Malcolm X on February 21, 1965. More than half a century after the events, a new investigation – conducted jointly by the New York attorney’s office and lawyers for the two men – found a miscarriage of justice. The request to quash the convictions landed on the office of the New York State Supreme Court on Thursday, which in all likelihood is expected to act on it. “All of this should never have happened. These facts were and are the consequence of a corrupt process to the core which remains too familiar, even in 2021 ”, reacted Muhammad Aziz, now 83 years old. Released from prison in 1985, after twenty years in prison and in prison, he has always proclaimed his innocence. His co-accused, Khalil Islam, died in 2009.
“Corrupted to the core” … Without repeating the phrase, the investigation spreads its veracity on every page. Prosecutors, the FBI and New York Police “withheld crucial evidence which, if known, would likely have led to the acquittal of the two men,” according to the New York Times, which had access to the file. The daily reports “a large number of FBI documents implicating other suspects” and “notes from prosecutors showing that they failed to disclose the presence of undercover agents in the room at the time of the shooting” .
The truth was able to come to light thanks in particular to the broadcast, in February 2020, of a documentary on Netflix, Who Killed Malcolm X? sky and archives. This historian and tourist guide in Washington DC had embarked on this almost obsessive quest after reading the affidavit statements made in 1977 by Talmadge Hayer, who then became Mujahid Abdul Halim, the third accused in the trial. He admitted to being the author of the assassination and revealed the identity of his accomplices: Benjamin Thomas, Leon Davis, William X as well as a fourth man of uncertain identity (Wilbur or Kinly), all members of the mosque. of Nation of Islam (NOI) in Newark, neighboring New Jersey. And he assured that Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam were indeed innocent. So many revelations despised by a judge.
Over the course of the six episodes of this mini-series, the inconsistencies of the investigation are revealed as innumerable as they are gaping. Following its broadcast, the New York prosecutor, Cyrus Vance, asked his teams to reconsider the case. If he clears Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam, he does not establish new guilt. Light shed on an injustice, gray areas remain.
“Like a man already dead”
When he shows up at the Audubon Ballroom, a Harlem performance hall, Malcolm X knows his life is in danger. He said it over and over to reporters: “I live like a man who is already dead. His spectacular break with Elijah Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam, places him in the sights of this movement whose dogmatic devotion is disputed with the quasi-military organization. Malcolm X entered it at the age of 27 after a “career” of petty theft and delinquent. He had adhered to all of his principles: the “cult” of Elijah Mohammad, the demonization of the white man, the refusal to “live together” and therefore the rejection of the civil rights movement. He had risen through the ranks to become the founder’s right-hand man, the one who stood alongside Cassius Clay when he announced his conversion and his change of surname to Mohamed Ali.
An undercover policeman
A brilliant and free spirit, Malcolm X understood, throughout the first half of the 1960s, the political significance of the civil rights movement. His former mentor persists. Malcolm X divorces, gets closer to Martin Luther King, converts to universalism. Power no longer accuses it of racism but of socialism. Much more dangerous. He is in danger on all fronts. A week earlier, his house was burnt down while he was sleeping there, along with women and children. On the morning of February 21, 1965, a reporter for the New York Daily News received an anonymous call announcing the murder of Malcolm X. Why so little protective action by the authorities? Has the FBI, under the thumb of the paranoid anti-Communist J. Edgar Hoover, knowingly let it go, satisfied with getting rid of a major “enemy”? Did he get involved?
In February of this year, Malcolm X’s daughters received a posthumous letter from a police officer. He affirmed that he had been “infiltrated” by his hierarchy near the black leader in order to trap two of his bodyguards, arrested only a few days before the fateful day, in order to weaken his security. The investigation into the death of one of the century’s most influential and charismatic black leaders is not quite complete, although it has freed two innocent people from undue burden. In the last episode of the documentary, at the request of the historian-investigator, Muhammad A. Aziz agrees to sign the petition demanding a reopening of the file while sharing his conviction that his name will never be washed. He was wrong. Since Thursday, he is no longer the assassin of Malcolm X.