Social justice news
January 2006

CRS Responds: 1 year after the Indian Ocean tsunami
Holy See on protectionism, fair trade at WTO
"Living Wage Days" events to honor King and his dream
January is “Poverty in America Awareness Month”
Migration week to highlight solidarity with immigrants, refugees
Pax Christi calls for swift abolition of nuclear weapons
Two convicted in the killing of Sr. Dorothy Stang
USCCB adopts "fair trade" policy

Two convicted in the killing of Sister Dorothy Stang
BELEM, PARA, BRAZIL — A Brazilian jury found Rayfran das Neves Sales and Clodoaldo Carlos Batista guilty of murder on December 10 in the killing of Sister Dorothy Stang, SND. Stang was gunned down on February 12 while walking along a dirt road in Anapu, Para, Brazil.

Three others await trial for this murder—two ranchers, accused of ordering the killing, and an intermediary, who is charged with orchestrating the crime. Earlier in the year, a Brazilian Senate commission report uncovered a wider conspiracy in this case involving more ranchers.

“We are grateful that the process of justice has begun,” said Elizabeth Bowyer, SND, Congregational spokesperson. “Our attention now turns to the trials of those charged with ordering and arranging the execution.”

The seven-member jury sentenced Sales, who shot Stang six times with a .38 caliber revolver on a muddy road, to 27 years in prison. Batista, charged as an accomplice, was sentenced to 17 years. The men had faced up to 30 years in prison.

Stang, 73, was killed in Para state, which is notorious across Brazil for corruption and land-related violence that in the past 20 years has claimed the lives of some 534 people. Before this decision, only eight killers had ever been convicted.

Prosecutor Esdon Cardoso said the case would only be resolved when three other men accused in the killing are convicted, including two ranchers accused of ordering the killing. A third man has been charged with acting as a go-between for the gunmen and the ranchers. The three are expected to face trial some time next year.

During the trial, both defendants recanted earlier confessions. Sales said he acted in self-defense, believing Stang was reaching for a gun as she pulled a Bible out of her purse. Batista said he did not know about plans to kill Stang.

Prosecutors alleged Sales and Batista were offered $25,000 by ranchers to kill the nun, and shot her at close range while she read her Bible. Sales acknowledged that his employer, Amair Feijoli, had given him the gun and told him to kill the nun a day earlier. But both men denied being offered money to kill her.

The trial was attended by Hina Jilani, special representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on human rights defenders, who is in Brazil to investigate the safety of activists who denounce abuses. Other dignitaries attending the trial included the Archbishop of Belem, Bishop of Marajó, and president of the Land Pastoral Commission.

"The city was alive with posters of Sr. Dorothy lining the streets," said Betsy Flynn, SND, describing the atmosphere around the courthouse in the days preceding and during the trial. "Hundreds of people camped out in the pouring rain in front of the Judicial Tribunal building, many had traveled from all over of the state. One-hundred had come from Anapu, where Sr. Dorothy lived, which is 24 hours away," she said.

Those who had come to be close to the trial participated in activities prepared by the Dorothy Stang Committee, an ecumenical group which has, since Stang's death, worked to help make known the facts surrounding her life and death.

At the time of her death, Stang, a native of Ohio, was working with the Project for Sustainable Development (PDS), a government initiative created through Brazil's national institute for agrarian reform (INCRA), which helps landless families benefit from sustainable farming systems. The land was granted for the farms by the government, but was highly coveted by the powerful ranchers.

Stang, who lived in the transamazonian region for 30 years, was named "Woman of the Year" by the state of Para in 2004 for her work on behalf of the people in the Brazilian state. Shortly before her death, she received an "Honorary Citizenship of the State" award from the state of Para. Following her death, Sister Dorothy was honored for her life and work by the United States Congress. This week, she received posthumously the Alceau Amoroso Lima award in Rio de Janeiro, named for the Catholic writer and thought leader.

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur are an international community of women religious with nearly 2,000 sisters plus associates ministering on five continents and in 28 of the United States.

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