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He witnessed Malcolm X’s assassination. 58 years later, he’s trying to help prove a government conspiracy

Prominent religious and civil rights leader was assassinated at 39-years-old in 1965. Ariana Baio reports

Tuesday 25 July 2023 21:03 BST
Mustafa Hassan, who was present on the day Malcolm X was shot on 21 February, says he believes there were law enforcement informants in the crowd that day
Mustafa Hassan, who was present on the day Malcolm X was shot on 21 February, says he believes there were law enforcement informants in the crowd that day (Ariana Baio / The Independent)

Six decades after the assassination of prominent civil rights leader Malcolm X, a man who witnessed his death is coming forward with allegations that law enforcement officials had informants in the crowd of people on 21 February 1965.

Mustafa Hassan, previously known as Richard Melwin Jones, was standing with Malcolm X on the day he died. Multiple photographs and videos from the day show Mr Hassan, 84, tending to him after he was shot.

Despite Mr Hassan’s presence, law enforcement officials failed to interview him, civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump and co-counsel Ray Hamlin said in a press conference on Tuesday.

Mr Hassan alleges that he heard police officers from the New York Police Department (NYPD) ask one another if Thomas Hagan, previously known as Talmadge X Hayer, was “with us” after he fatally shot Malcolm X.

He believes this means police knew Malcolm X’s life was in danger but didn’t act quickly enough to protect him and wrongly arrested two men in connection with his death.

For years, the assassination of Malcolm X has been subject to questions and theories that point to a larger conspiracy suggesting his death was planned or orchestrated by US officials.

An initial investigation into Malcolm X’s murder found three men guilty of fatally shooting the prominent leader on 21 February 1965. But documentaries, books and amateur investigations have long questioned the truth behind Malcolm X’s murder.

Lawyers for Malcolm X’s family reveal ‘explosive’ witness bolstering assassination conspiracy claims

Then in 2021, two men who were found guilty of killing Malcolm X for which they served more than 20 years in prison, were exonerated by the Manhattan district attorney.

Since then, the truth behind Malcolm X’s assassination has remained concealed.

Who was Malcolm X?

Malcolm X was a well-known religious and civil rights leader who rose to prominence in the 1950s after becoming a spokesman figure for the religion, the Nation of Islam.

During the civil rights movement, Malcolm X juxtaposed the beliefs of Martin Luther King Jr, calling for racial separatism and rejecting his non-violent teachings.

Famously, he urged Black people to claim civil rights “by any means necessary.”

Malcolm X Quote Library (1965 AP)

Though he generated debate with some of his views, Malcolm X is widely celebrated as a leader in promoting racial justice and Black empowerment.

During his time with the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X repeatedly received death threats and was surveilled by government agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Eventually, in 1964, Malcolm X separated from the Nation of Islam.

Malcolm X’s assassination

On 21 February 1965, three men opened fire outside of the Audubon Ballroom in New York City where Malcolm X was preparing to address a crowd of followers.

He was fatally shot 21 times in front of his wife, Betty Shabazz, and four of his daughters.

Also standing near him was Mr Hassan, who in an affidavit, attested that he was assisting with Malcolm X’s security detail when he was shot by Hagan.

Mustafa Hassan points to a photo of himself next to Malcolm X after he was shot (Ariana Baio / The Independent)

“I would later see [Hagan] outside as he was being beaten by Malcolm’s followers while a group of policemen, who suddenly showed up on the scene asking ‘is he with us’ while at the same time holding back Malcolm’s followers from beating him,” Mr Hassan said.

“From my vantage point, this was an attempt by the police to assist in him getting away.”

Mr Hassan said he tried to grab Hagan’s collar to prevent him from escaping but a police officer came in between them.

Mustafa Hassan points to himself in a photo from the day Malcolm X was assassinated (Ariana Baio / The Independent)

Three men, Muhammad Aziz (formally known as Norman 3X Butler) and Khalil Islam (formally known as Thomas 15X Johnson) and Hagan, were arrested, charged and convicted of Malcolm X’s murder.

Though Hagan confessed to firing a gun, he testified that neither Mr Aziz nor Mr Islam was involved. Despite this, all three men were sentenced to life in prison.

In 2020, the then-Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr opened an investigation into Malcolm X’s murder where they alleged prosecutors withheld key evidence during the trial.

After spending more than 20 years in prison, Mr Aziz and Mr Islam (posthumously) were exonerated from the charges in 2021.

Malcolm X Wrongful Conviction Lawsuit (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Questions about the truth of Malcolm X’s murder have led to theories that law enforcement purposefully did not prevent his assassination and government agencies, like the FBI and CIA, may have been involved.

Mr Crump believes Mr Hassan’s witness to the day Malcolm X died shows that police did not conduct a thorough investigation and there may be more than what they’re letting on.

“We want justice to be served because I think what history has recorded is inaccurate,” Malcolm X’s daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, told reporters on Tuesday.

She added: “We want the truth to be known and we want the history books to reflect that truth.”

This past February, Malcolm X’s family filed an intent to file a lawsuit against agencies including the FBI, NYPD, CIA and more, accusing them of playing a role in his death.

Mr Crump said they were following protocol and waiting to file the suit.

In the press release, Mr Crump accused government agencies, of having “factual and exculpatory evidence that they fraudulently concealed from the family of Malcolm X and the men wrongly convicted of crimes surrounding the assassination of Malcolm X.”

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