SAO PAULO – The high court in the Brazilian state of Para overturned on Tuesday the acquittal of land baron Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura on charges he planned the 2005 murder of U.S. nun and environmental activist Dorothy Stang.
Moura was originally convicted in May 2007 of ordering the killing and sentenced to 30 years in prison, but he was given a new trial under a law that automatically provides for new proceedings if a sentence exceeds 20 years.
That second trial, concluded in May 2008, undid the conviction, but prosecutors appealed to the state court, which has now thrown out the acquittal and ordered Moura’s immediate arrest.
The 73-year-old nun, who worked for years to defend landless peasants and protect the environment in Amazonia, was shot six times at point-blank range on Feb. 12, 2005, as she was walking to a meeting.
Tuesday’s decision also mandated another trial for confessed shooter Rayfran das Neves Sales.
Prosecutors are seeking to add to Sales’ 28-year sentence based on newly discovered proof that he was paid 50,000 reais ($22,542) to kill the U.S. missionary.
Brazil’s president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, denounced the May 2008 acquittal of Mouro as a “stain” on his country’s reputation.
Stang, an Ohio native who joined the Franciscan Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, settled in Brazil in the 1970s and distinguished herself by working to defend the Amazon against exploitation by industry, logging interests and landowners.
Her slaying occurred several days after she met with Special Human Rights Secretary Nilmario Miranda.
At the meeting, Stang had complained that she and several peasants had received death threats and that ranchers and lumber interests had occupied a nature preserve.
Stang’s murder prompted Lula’s administration to send 2,000 troops to Para to deal with the violence arising from land disputes, which have claimed more than 700 lives in state over the last 30 years. EFE