American nun's killer released from Brazil prison

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Associated Press

Posted on July 4, 2013 at 4:00 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 5 at 2:05 AM

SAO PAULO (AP) — The confessed killer of U.S. nun and Amazon defender Dorothy Stang has been released from jail after serving less than nine of the 27 years he was sentenced to back in 2005, officials said Thursday.

The judiciary branch of the northern state of Para Thursday said on its website that Judge Claudio Henrique Rendeiro ruled that Rayfran das Neves Sales was entitled to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest. Neves is prohibited from frequenting bars, must sleep at home and find a job. He was released on Tuesday.

Neves, who served eight years and eight months, confessed that in 2005 he shot Stang six times on a muddy Amazon road. Two accomplices, Clodoaldo Carlos Batista and Amair Feijoli da Cunha, are serving 17 and 18 years, respectively.

Stang was born in Dayton, Ohio, and spent three decades trying to preserve the rain forest and defending the rights of poor settlers who confronted powerful ranchers seeking their lands in the Amazon's wild frontier.

Para state is notorious for land-related violence, contract killings, slave-like labor conditions and wanton environmental destruction.

In Brazil, killings over land are common and seldom punished as powerful landowners clash with farmers and others for control of lucrative farming and logging land. The killings are mostly carried out by gunmen hired by loggers, ranchers and farmers to silence protests over illegal logging and land rights.

According to Brazil's Catholic Land Pastoral group, more than 1,150 rural activists have been slain in the country over the past 20 years, but fewer than 100 cases have gone to court since 1988. Out of those cases, courts have convicted just 15 men for ordering killings.

Jose Batista Afonso, one of the group's lawyers, told the G1 news website that placing Neves under house arrest "gives the impression that crime pays and that impunity prevails."

Phone calls to the land pastoral group went unanswered.

In May, the Supreme Court has annulled the trial and conviction of Vitalmiro Moura, a rancher who was arrested on suspicion of ordering Stang's murder.

The court said Moura was not given enough time to prepare his defense in 2010 when he was sentenced to 30 years in prison. The court said Moura will remain behind bars until he his retried at a yet-to be scheduled date.

Regivaldo Galvao, another rancher, was also convicted of ordering Stang's killing. The Supreme Court ordered his release last year, saying he had the right to remain free pending the outcome of his appeal process. He was sentenced to a 30-year jail term in 2010.

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