Malcolm X's daughter in court deal

Federal prosecutors have agreed to drop murder-for-hire charges against Malcolm X's daughter in an agreement seeming to signal the end of a feud that has riven the US black radical movement for more than three decades.

Under a deal announced in a Minneapolis courtroom yesterday, the trial of Qubilah Shabazz on charges of plotting to kill Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, has been postponed for two years while she has drug and psychiatric counselling. If the probation goes smoothly, the case will be dismissed in its entirety.

So may end a bitter hostility that began before Malcolm X was shot at a political rally inHarlem on 21 February 1965 in front of his daughter, then four. Three men, all Nation members, were convicted of the killing, but Malcolm's family has always thought Mr Farrakhan, already his sworn foe, plotted the crime.

According to the nine-count indictment, Qubilah Shabazz sought to avenge her father's murder by having Mr Farrakhan killed. Unfortunately, the former school classmate she allegedly tried to hire as hitman turned out to be an FBI informant. His testimony was the backbone of the charges against her.

Initially, the defence claimed that Michael Fitzpatrick lured Shabazz into the plot in a deliberate attempt by the government to frame her. That contention, like so much else in the case, echoed events of three decades ago when many black radicals were convinced that the FBI had conspired with Mr Farrakhan to kill a man regarded as a prime threat to America's precarious racial peace.

But yesterday's deal - in effect a plea bargain - states that the investigation of the plot was in good faith, and not an entrapment, and contains an affidavit in which Shabazz admits her involvement. "Yes I do," she said when the judge asked if she understood the arrangement.

The settlement probably would have been impossible without a reconciliation, symbolised by a rally on Saturday at the Apollo theatre in Harlem to raise money for Shabazz's defence, at which Mr Farrakhan appeared with Malcolm's widow, Betty Shabazz.

"It has not been easy," Betty Shabazz said after yesterday's brief hearing. She thanked her daughter's lawyers, but her warmest words were for the black militant widely seen today as the exact embodiment of the divisive radicalism of which her late husband was accused.

"I'm most appreciative of Mr Farrakhan, and surprised by his words, his patience, and his generosity,'' she said.