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Man who killed Amazon activist nun released after just eight years

By on Monday, 8 July 2013

A woman prays at Sister Dorothy Stang's grave in Anapu, Brazil (AP)

A woman prays at Sister Dorothy Stang's grave in Anapu, Brazil (AP)

The man who confessed to killing an American nun in 2005 in the Brazilian Amazon has been released from prison.

Rayfran das Neves Sales, who served a little less than eight years of a 27-year sentence for shooting Sister Dorothy Stang, a member of the Notre Dame de Namur Sisters, will carry out the rest of his sentence under house arrest.

Sales was one of the four other men accused of plotting and carrying out the assassination of Sister Dorothy. Two other accomplices are in jail serving sentences from 17 to 30 years, while the rancher said to be the mastermind of the plot remains free, waiting for a re-trial scheduled for September.

Sister Dorothy, a native of Dayton, Ohio, had lived in the Amazon region for nearly four decades and was a naturalised Brazilian. 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. The work she did angered many large landowners, and she had received death threats.

Jose Batista, a lawyer for the Pastoral Land Commission, told local media the decision showed that “crime pays” and said it would encourage criminal activities in the region.

Over the years several Catholic bishops in the region have received death threats from large landowners, usually due to their work with landless peasants and the indigenous population.