Rancher to face charges in 2005 slaying of activist nun in Amazon

A Brazilian rancher suspected of orchestrating the 2005 murder of Sister Dorothy Stang, a US-born nun who spoke out against logging in the Amazon rainforest, is to be charged in the killing and brought to trial following his arrest for land fraud, prosecutors announced Dec. 28. Federal police arrested the rancher, Regivaldo Galvão, two days earlier at his home in the northern Amazon state of Pará. He was accused of trying to use forged titles to claim possession of the same public land that Sister Dorothy was fighting to protect when she was fatally shot in February 2005.

Felício Pontes, a federal prosecutor, said that documents believed to have been forged that were seized from Galvão contradict his earlier statement that he had no connection to the killing. Galvão had been arrested and charged in connection with the killing in 2005, but was freed the following year after a series of appeals claiming he had no commercial interest in the land where Sister Dorothy, 73, was murdered. Pontes said that Galvão’s new arrest “shows that he had direct connection and interest in the lands that Sister Dorothy died to protect.”

Edson Cardoso, a state prosecutor, said he will seek to have Galvão tried for the nun’s murder. A second rancher accused of Stang’s murder, Vitalmiro Moura, was sentenced to 30 years in prison in May 2007. But his sentence was overturned this year after gunman Rayfran das Neves Sales confessed to killing Stang and said he acted alone. The gunman is serving a 28-year sentence for the crime.

Sister Dorothy, who was from Dayton, Ohio, spent 30 years trying to prevent ranchers from seizing the lands of poor Amazon settlers. Her struggle and slaying were detailed in the 2008 documentary They Killed Sister Dorothy, narrated by actor Martin Sheen. The land case against Galvão was opened in response to investigations aired in the film. (NYT, The Observer, Dec. 28)

See our last posts on Brazil and the struggle for the Amazon.

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