The Supreme Court has said the assassination of the four national leaders was the result of a criminal conspiracy.
The apex court came up with the observation in its full judgement that was released last night, more than 31 months after the SC upheld the death penalty of three former army personnel and life term imprisonment of eight others awarded by a lower court in 2004.
The national leaders -- Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmad, AHM Quamruzzaman and Captain Mansur Alli -- were brutally killed inside the Dhaka Central Jail on November 3, 1975.
A six-member Appellate Division bench led by the then chief justice Md Muzammel Hossain upheld the judgment on April 30, 2013. Other judges of the bench are: Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha who now is the chief justice, Justice Md Abdul Wahhab Miah, Justice Nazmun Ara Sultana, Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain and Justice Muhammad Imman Ali.
The death row convicts are Risalder (retd) Muslemuddin, Dafadar (dismissed) Marfat Ali Shah and Dafadar (dismissed) Abdul Hashem Mridha.
Those who got life imprisonment are Lt Col (dismissed) Khondaker Abdur Rashid, Lt Col (relieved) Shariful Haq Dalim, Lt Col (retd) SHMB Noor Chowdhury, Lt Col (retd) AM Rashed Chowdhury, Maj (relieved) Ahmed Shariful Hossain, Capt (retd) Abdul Majed, Capt (relieved) Kismat Hasem and Capt (relieved) Nazmul Hossain.
All the convicts are on the run.
The full judgment was written by Justice Nazmun Ara Sultana and it was agreed by the then chief justiuce and three other judges.
Though Justice Sinha endorsed her view that the accused hatched a conspiracy to kill the Awami League leaders, he gave different opinion on some part of the verdict.
He wrote, "There are uncontroverted evidence on record in support of the prosecution case that the killing squad came from the Bangabhaban and after executing the killing, they returned back again to Bangabhaban, a judge of the apex court said in his part of the judgment."
"The accused persons couldn't have implemented the killing unless very high handed powerful State machineries were involved in the conspiracy," Justice Sinha said.
Justice Nazmun Ara Sultana, in the judgment wrote, "In this present case, from the evidence narrated above, we, in agreement with the learned Counsel for the State-appellant, find that there are sufficient evidence to prove that there was a criminal conspiracy to kill the 4 leaders inside jail."
The evidence provided by the first, the second, the third and the seventeenth prosecution witnesses, whom the court found trustworthy, have proved sufficiently that before the accused -- Risalder Muslem Uddin and others assailants -- came to the jail, several telephone calls from Major Rashid and others from Bangabhaban were made to the inspector general (prisons), the judgment says.
Rashid informed the IG (prisons) over telephone that Muslem Uddin would go to the jail and told the IG to allow him to talk to the four leaders. Rashid also later inquired if Muslem had reached the jail, it reads.
After Muslem and his accomplices arrived at the jail, Rashid and the then president Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed -- being informed by the IG that Muslem Uddin wanted to kill the four leaders -- told the IG to allow Muslem "to do what he wanted to do".
"These evidence ... lead to the only inference that there was a criminal conspiracy to kill 4 leaders inside the jail," the verdict observed.
In October 2004, Dhaka Metropolitan Judge's court sentenced the three to death and handed down life term imprisonment to 12 others.
But, the High Court in August 2008, upheld the capital punishment of Muslemuddin but acquitted Marfat and Hashem. It also acquitted four life convicts. The HC did not say anything about the eight others who were given life imprisonment by the SC in 2013.