Brazil Farmer Pleads Guilty in Nun's Death
Apr. 26, 2006
BELEM, Brazil (AP) _ An Amazon farmer charged in the killing of American nun and rainforest defender Dorothy Stang pleaded guilty Wednesday and said two ranchers ordered her murder because of her opposition to their plan to log a patch of forest.
Amair Feijoli da Cunha, 38, told a jury he offered money to two gunmen to shoot the 73-year-old nun on Feb. 12, 2005, at the behest of ranchers Vitalmiro Moura and Regivaldo Galvao.
Feijoli testified that Galvao told him: ``Until we put an end to this woman, we won't have peace on these lands.''
He said Galvao told him to offer $24,000 to kill Stang. Feijoli said Moura supplied the .38 caliber revolver used in the killing.
The two ranchers have been charged with Stang's killing, but legal maneuvering has kept their cases from coming to trial.
Stang, a naturalized Brazilian originally from Ohio, spent the last 23 years of her life in the remote jungle town of Anapu, some 1,250 miles north of Rio de Janeiro, where she defended the rainforest and poor settlers who lived there.
Stang was shot on a muddy stretch of road deep in the heart of the Amazon following a long-running dispute with ranchers over a patch of forest they wanted to log and then convert into pasture land. She wanted to have the land declared as a sustainable development reserve.
Para state prosecutor Lauro Freitas said he would ask for the maximum penalty of 30 years in prison for Feijoli.
Stang's killing evoked comparisons with rainforest defender Chico Mendes, who was shot in 1988 n the western Amazon state of Acre.
The gunman, Rayfran das Neves Sales, and his accomplice, Clodoaldo Carlos Batista, were sentenced in December to 27 and 17 years, respectively.
Lawyers for the Stang family said it also was important to convict the men accused of ordering the killing _ something that rarely happens in Para state, where ranchers and loggers are closely linked to politicians and the police.
``Up until now, the history of this region is one of impunity, where the wealthy have their way,'' said lawyer Brent Rushforth, who flew in from Washington D.C. to attend the trial along with three of Stang's siblings.
Members of Stang's family said they were pleased with the proceedings so far but said it was essential to convict the men who ordered the killing.
``I want to see who this guy Bida is. I want to look him in the eye,'' said Stang's sister Marguerite Holm, 73, referring to Moura by his nickname.
Outside the courthouse, poor settlers, who traveled for days by bus over washed-out dirt roads, camped out under tarpolins. Some held banners with Portuguese slogans reading: ``Sister Dorothy your blood has cleansed the Earth.''
Para is notorious for land-related violence. According to the Catholic Church's Land Pastoral, more than 500 land-related killings have occurred over the past 20 years, but only 10 cases ever went to trial.