Brazil’s Supreme Court on Aug. 22 ordered the release of Amazon rancher Regivaldo Galvão, convicted in the 2005 killing of US nun and rainforest activist Dorothy Stang. In 2010, Galvão was convicted by a court in Belém, Pará state, of ordering Stang’s death, and sentenced to 30 years. The following year, the Pará court ordered that he start serving his term immediately, even while pursuing an appeal of his conviction. But the Supreme Court ruled that Galvão had the right to remain free pending the outcome of his appeal.
Also convicted of ordering Stang’s murder was fellow rancher Vitalmiro Moura, who is now serving a 30-year term. Two other men charged with taking part in the killing are also currently in prison—but in conditions described as “semi-open,” a privilege granted along with a reduction of their terms from 27 to 17 years, for their cooperation with the prosecution. Another who was granted such terms, Clodoaldo Batista, escaped last year and remains is at large. Galvão and Moura maintain their innocence.
Stang is believed to have been murdered for her work in defense of landless peasants against the abuses of ranchers in lawless Pará state. According to a local rights group, the Catholic Land Pastoral, more than 1,150 rural activists have been murdered in Brazil over the past 20 years, with fewer than 100 cases going to court. Of those cases, only 15 have been found guilty as the intellectual authors of the killings. Stang’s order, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, “continue to live and work in the Amazon rainforest, and in other areas of Brazil, among the materially poor.” (Diário do Pará, Global Post, Aug. 25; AP, Agência Brasil, Aug. 22; DorothyStang.org)