New trial begins in case of murdered American sister in Brazil


The Brazilian courts have initiated a new trial of the men accused of killing the American religious sister, Dorothy Stang, who was shot in February of 2005 in the state of Para.

Sister Dorothy was killed while working with the rural poor and peasants who were opposing the destruction of the rain forest and being threatened by loggers and ranchers for doing so.

Ranchers Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura and Rayfran das Neves had been sentenced to 30 and 27 years respectively in a previous trial for the murder of the sister.

According to Brazilian law, any person sentenced to more than 20 years in prison has the right to appeal.  The appeals of both men were accepted and a new trail began on May 5.

In his opening testimony, Rayfran das Neves changed his version of the story for the tenth time, claiming this time that he was solely responsible for the murder and exonerating Bastos of any role in the act.  Bastos had been considered the mastermind of the murder.

In his new testimony, Bastos said he did not know Rayfran and that he was innocent of involvement in the crime.

In the first trial the Brazilian court found four men guilty of the murder.  Together with Rayfran and Bastos, guilty sentences were also handed down to Amair Feijoli da Cunha, sentenced to 18 years, and Clodoaldo Carlos Batista, sentenced to 17 years, both for witnessing the crime but doing nothing to stop it.

Prosecutors are calling for the two accused men to be given the maximum sentences for the murder.

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