Amazon rancher acquitted at Stang murder retrial

A Brazilian rancher has been acquitted of the murder of Brazilian environmental activist Sr Dorothy Stang following a retrial.

BBC News reports Vitalmiro Vastos de Moura was acquitted of ordering the death of Sr Stang but the court confirmed the conviction of a second suspect, Rayfran das Neves, who had confessed to shooting her in 2005.

His sentence was increased by a year, to 28 years in prison.

Sr Stang campaigned for poor farmers' rights in Brazil, and to preserve the rainforest from loggers and developers.

Her murder followed a dispute with ranchers over land they wanted to clear for pasture and she wanted to protect.

Mr Moura was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in May 2007, for ordering the shooting, but Brazil requires retrials for first offenders who are sentenced to more than 20 years.

The jury at the retrial in Para state voted five to two to acquit him, according to a court spokeswoman.

The dead nun's relatives said they were stunned by his acquittal.

"The prosecution was excellent. They presented their case very well, so we're very surprised," said her brother David Stang, who attended the trial.

Sr Stang's sister Marguerite Hohm had watched the two day long trial from her home in the US via a live internet feed.

"I saw the judge shaking hands with the defendants and I didn't understand what was going on," Ms Hohm told the Associated Press news agency.

"We're very saddened."

Mr Moura's defence lawyer praised the jury, repeating his position that Moura had no motive to kill Sister Dorothy.


Rancher freed over US nun killing (BBC News, 7/5/08)


Sr Dorothy Stang (Wikipedia)

Sister Dorothy Stang (Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur)


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