According to their attorney, the two men, whose convictions for the 1965 murder of Malcolm X were overturned last year, will receive $36 million from the city and state of New York.
“The tragedy of Malcolm X’s murder was felt across the world, compounded by the fact that it resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of two innocent young black men in the United States,” attorney, David Shanese, said in a released statement sent to AFP on Sunday night.
The two men, Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam, have always claimed that they did not commit the murder.
Aziz, 84, is seeking $40 million after serving nearly two decades in prison and more than 55 years wrongfully accused in a case that raised questions about racism in the criminal justice system.
Islam, who died in 2009 at age 74, also spent more than 20 years in prison and was acquitted in November 2021. His estate also filed a $40 million lawsuit.
They were released in the mid-1980s, but their names weren’t fully acquitted until November 2021 by the New York State Supreme Court, which described their conviction nearly half a century ago as a “failure of justice.”
“Today we recognize this injustice and take a humble step to correct it,” Shaniz said.
A New York Times report confirmed that New York City will pay $26 million to split between Aziz, 84, and the Islam family.
The New York State government will also pay $5 million each, bringing the total compensation to $36 million.
“Their settlement brings a measure of justice to individuals who have served decades in prison and endured the stigma of being falsely accused of killing a high-profile figure,” said Nick Polucci, a spokesperson for the City of Washington, New York City Law Department.
For more than half a century, official records show that three members of the black nationalist group called the Nation of Islam – abandoned by Malcolm X at the time- shot dead the famous 39-year-old activist in front of his wife and children as he came to speak on stage at a Harlem Ballroom.
A man with a shotgun fired and shot once in Malcolm’s chest. Two others with semiautomatic pistols advanced and shot him. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital with 21 gunshot wounds.
His funeral in Harlem was attended by black civil rights activists and about 30,000 people on the streets.
Aziz, Islam and a third man, Mujahid Abdel Halim, were convicted in 1966 – but historians have long questioned that thesis.
Abdelhalim – now 81 and released from prison in 2010 – confessed to the murder but maintained the innocence of the other two.