Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Anger as nun's killer freed early

Rayfran das Neves Sales during the trial for killing of nun Dorothy Stang (AP/Silvia Izquierdo)

The killer of American nun and Amazon defender Dorothy Stang has been freed from jail after serving less than nine years of his 27-year term.

The judiciary branch of the northern state of Para Thursday said on its website that Judge Claudio Henrique Rendeiro ruled that Rayfran das Neves Sales was entitled to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest.

Neves, who served eight years and eight months, is banned from frequenting bars, must sleep at home and find a job.

He confessed that in 2005 he shot Ms Stang, 73, six times on a muddy Amazon road. Two accomplices, Clodoaldo Carlos Batista and Amair Feijoli da Cunha, are serving 17 and 18 years respectively.

Ms Stang, born in Dayton, Ohio, spent 30 years trying to preserve the rainforest and defending the rights of poor settlers who confronted powerful ranchers seeking their lands in the Amazon's wild frontier.

Para state is notorious for land-related violence, contract killings, slave-like working conditions and wanton environmental destruction. In Brazil, killings over land are common and seldom punished as powerful landowners clash with farmers and others for control of lucrative farming and logging land. The killings are mostly carried out by gunmen hired by loggers, ranchers and farmers to silence protests over illegal logging and land rights.

According to Brazil's Catholic Land Pastoral group, more than 1,150 rural activists have been killed in the country over the past 20 years, but fewer than 100 cases have gone to court since 1988. Out of those cases, courts have convicted just 15 men for ordering killings.

Jose Batista Afonso, one of the group's lawyers, told the G1 news website that placing Neves under house arrest "gives the impression that crime pays and that impunity prevails".

In May, Brazil's supreme court annulled the trial and conviction of Vitalmiro Moura, a rancher who was arrested on suspicion of ordering Ms Stang's murder. The court said Moura was not given enough time to prepare his defence in 2010 when he was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He will remain behind bars until his retrial.

Regivaldo Galvao, another rancher, was also convicted of ordering Ms Stang's killing. The supreme court ordered his release last year, saying he had the right to remain free pending the outcome of his appeal process. He was sentenced to a 30-year jail term in 2010.

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