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Brazilian rancher convicted in fourth trial for murder of Sister Stang

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A cross stands on the spot where U.S. Sister Dorothy Stang, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, was murdered Feb. 12, 2005, on an isolated road near the Brazilian town of Anapu June 7. (CNS photo/Lunae Parracho, Reuters)

By Lise Alves Catholic News Service

SAO PAULO — Brazilian rancher Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura again has been found guilty of masterminding the 2005 assassination of U.S.-born Sister Dorothy Stang.

A judge sentenced Moura to 30 years in prison after he was declared guilty just before midnight Sept. 19, the court in Para state said in a statement.

U.S. Sister Dorothy Stang, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, is pictured in a 2004 file photo in Belem, northern Brazil. The nun was 73 when she was murdered Feb. 12, 2005, on an isolated road near the Brazilian town of Anapu. She had lived in the country for nearly four decades and was known as a fierce defender of a sustainable development project for the Amazon forest. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Moura has been tried three other times for the murder of Sister Dorothy, a naturalized Brazilian citizen who was a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and a native of Dayton, Ohio.

In 2007, Moura was sentenced to 30 years in jail for masterminding the assassination. In Brazil, if a person is sentenced for more than 20 years, he has the right to be retried with a new jury.

During the 2008 trial, Moura was declared innocent of the charges.

In 2009, the verdict was annulled by the courts of the state of Para, and Moura was tried again in 2010. He was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years. But the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled that Moura’s attorneys did not have enough time to prepare for the 2010 trial and ordered him to be tried again.

Sister Dorothy, 73 at the time of her death, had lived in the Amazon region for nearly four decades. She worked closely with the Brazilian bishops’ Pastoral Land Commission in favor of land rights for the poor and for sustainable development in the region.

Her assassination brought international awareness of the land conflicts occurring in the Amazon region and the dozens of people, many working for the Catholic Church, who receive death threats over the years. The other four men involved in the murder are serving sentences that range from 17 to 30 years.

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