Muhammad Aziz, an innocent man who was exonerated in the assassination of Malcolm X, has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government. Aziz, 85, alleges that the FBI and its former director, J. Edgar Hoover, hid evidence pointing to the real killer in order to protect the agency’s undercover operations aimed at undermining the civil rights movement.
In his lawsuit, Aziz describes a series of FBI reports and evidence that supported his innocence in the 1965 Audubon Ballroom killing. He claims that Hoover and the FBI deliberately kept this evidence secret during his trial and for many years afterward. Aziz’s lawsuit further alleges that FBI employees concealed this information to protect the agency’s covert program known as COINTELPRO, which aimed to infiltrate and disrupt Black activist groups.
Aziz, a U.S. Navy veteran, was arrested at the age of 26 for Malcolm X’s murder. Alongside his co-defendant Khalil Islam, who has since passed away, Aziz was wrongfully convicted in a Manhattan Supreme Court trial. Both men spent decades in prison before being exonerated in 2021 by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, led by Cyrus Vance.
Last year, the city and state agreed to pay Aziz and Islam’s estate a settlement of $36 million. Aziz’s lawyer, David Shanies, stated that the FBI played a significant role in the case but has never acknowledged its involvement or taken any steps to rectify the situation.
The assassination of Malcolm X occurred on February 21, 1965, inside the Washington Heights Ballroom in front of a crowd of 400 people, including NYPD and FBI informants and undercover officers. Aziz’s lawsuit claims that the FBI had evidence pointing to another suspect, a Nation of Islam leader named William Bradley, as the person holding the shotgun used in the killing. The lawsuit seeks to uncover the alleged ties between Bradley and the FBI.