Late US civil rights leader Malcolm X. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
Late US civil rights leader Malcolm X. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

The Manhattan district attorney’s office said it will act to exonerate two men convicted of killing black activist and civil rights advocate Malcolm X in 1965 in what will represent an official acknowledgement of errors made in the case.

Malcolm X rose to prominence as the national spokesman of the Nation of Islam, an African-American Muslim group that espoused black separatism. He spent more over a decade with the group before becoming disillusioned, publicly breaking with it in 1964 and moderating some of his earlier views on racial separation.

He was shot dead at New York's Audubon Ballroom while preparing to deliver a speech. Three members of the Nation of Islam were convicted in the shooting.

The  move was first reported by the New York Times by a spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney’s office on Wednesday.

In an interview with the Times, Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, apologised on behalf of law enforcement, which he said had failed the families of the two men — Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam.

"This points to the truth that law enforcement over history has often failed to live up to its responsibilities," Vance said. "These men did not get the justice that they deserved."

A nearly two-year investigation conducted jointly by the Manhattan district attorney and lawyers for the two men found that prosecutors and law enforcement agencies withheld key evidence that, had it been turned over, would likely have led to the pair’s acquittal, according to the Times.

Some historians and scholars have contended that the wrong men were convicted. Vance’s office said in 2020 it would review the convictions in the case.

Reuters

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