2111119 Malcolm X
Muhammad Aziz walks outside the courthouse after his conviction in the killing of Malcolm X was vacated, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in New York. Image Credit: New York Times

New York: Two men who spent decades in prison for murdering Black activist and civil rights advocate Malcolm X in 1965 were exonerated on Thursday by a New York state judge, after the Manhattan district attorney said evidence had been withheld in the case and apologized for “violations of law and public trust.”

State Supreme Court Justice Ellen Biben vacated the convictions against Muhammad Aziz, 83, and Khalil Islam, who died in 2009.

Both were released from prison on parole in the 1980s.

Aziz and two of Islam’s sons were present in the court on Thursday.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance told the court that new exculpatory evidence uncovered during a two-years-long investigation had made it clear that Aziz and Islam were wrongfully convicted for murdering Malcolm X.

The evidence included documents that investigators withheld from both defence and prosecution in Aziz and Islam’s case, according to Vance. “I apologize for what were serious, unacceptable violations of law and the public trust,” he said.

Applause broke out in the courtroom as Biben vacated the convictions, after saying she regretted that the court could not give Aziz and Islam back the years they had lost due to the wrongful convictions.