ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Malcolm X's widow says she never taught her children to hate Louis Farrakhan, including the daughter charged with plotting to kill the Nation of Islam leader to avenge her father.

``I read in one magazine that I probably had fed her a steady diet to dislike Farrakhan, which is absolutely untrue,'' Betty Shabazz said after her daughter Qubilah pleaded innocent Wednesday to federal charges of hiring a hit man.

``My daughter was reared ... with no steady diet of disliking anyone.''

Qubilah Shabazz faces up to 90 years in prison and $2.25 million in fines if convicted. She remained free on $10,000 bail; trial was set for March 27 in Minneapolis.

Malcolm X's family and many others have long believed that Farrakhan had a hand in the 1965 assassination. But the indictment against Qubilah Shabazz has been criticized as a setup by her friends, relatives, many other blacks _ and Farrakhan.

The federal investigation was defended today by Attorney General Janet Reno. ``We have been working with the United States attorney,'' Reno told her weekly news conference in Washington. ``I think it's fair to say that we have tried to make sure that this was done clearly based on the evidence and the law.'' She declined to comment futher because the judge has imposed a gag order in the case.

Defense lawyers say Shabazz, 34, was lured into the alleged plot by a childhood friend, identified in media reports as Michael Fitzpatrick, a longtime government informant. Prosecutors have refused to comment on a possible motive.

Civil rights lawyer William Kunstler, who was with Shabazz at her arraignment, said the indictment is part of a government conspiracy to discredit black leaders.

``I think what we will find out from this bizarre case is that there was set in motion a plan to cause the assassination, if possible, of Louis Farrakhan, but it was a plan set by the Bureau, the FBI,'' he told Minnesota Public Radio.

Percy Sutton, a New York City lawyer who represents the Shabazz family, said entrapment is ``the essence of this case.''

``At no time during the development of those children has Dr. Shabazz ever instilled in them any hate in anybody,'' Sutton said.

Shabazz was 4 when she and three of her five sisters saw Malcolm X gunned down before a crowd of supporters in New York City _ a year after he had broken with the Nation of Islam. Three Black Muslims were convicted of the murder.

In a March 1994 interview, Betty Shabazz, an college administrator in New York City, said she believed Farrakhan was involved.

Farrakhan proclaimed his innocence in a fiery speech Tuesday, defending Qubilah Shabazz and accusing the government of trying to destroy black unity.

``I was totally surprised at the extent of his humanity,'' Shabazz's mother said.

Outside the courthouse Wednesday, a small group of demonstrators raised a green and red banner proclaiming ``The Real Hitmen: The Feds.'' On the banner were pictures of Malcolm X, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, killed by police in Chicago in 1969.