By Lucy Jordan, Senior Contributing Reporter

BRASÍLIA, BRAZIL – The Supremo Tribunal Federal (Supreme Court, STF) released an Amazon rancher Regivaldo Galvão, sometimes known as “Taradao,” who was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to thirty years of prison in May 2010 for his involvement in the February 2005 death of Sister Dorothy Stang, a nun and rainforest activist in Anapu, Pará.

Missionaries  protest release of Regivaldo Galvão, convicted killer of Dorothy Stang, Brazil News
Missionaries Julia Depweg, Rebeca Spires and José Pantoja of the Comissão Pastoral da Terra (Pastoral Land Commission, CPT) during a news conference on impunity in the case of Dorothy Stang, photo by Antonio Cruz/ABr.

Galvão is currently appealing against the conviction, and Minister Marco Aurélio Mello of the STF decided that he should maintain his freedom until the final appeal is heard.

“I am innocent and have nothing to do with this crime,” Galvao told the press. “The decision of the Minister of the Supreme Court restores justice and gives me the opportunity to continue fighting to prove what I’m saying.”

Prosecutors allege that Sister Stang, a missionary from Dayton, Ohio, was shot because of a land dispute with farmers in the region. Sister Stang had worked for thirty years in the region to try and prevent illegal Amazon deforestation and protect indigenous communities and the rural poor from powerful agricultural interests in Brazil.

Violent land-disputes and the contract killings of environmental activists happen frequently in this particularly lawless area of the Amazon. After a spate of assassinations in 2011, the government declared that Amazonian activists who receive death threats would be protected by the government, and if necessary, would receive protection from the armed forces.

The complaint charged that Rayfran das Neves Sales and Clodoaldo Carlos Batista killed Sister Stang, Agencia Brasil reported. The prosecution said that they acted on behalf of Amair Feijoli da Cunha, Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura and Regivaldo Pereira Galvão, who paid the gunmen R$50 thousand to assassinate Sister Stang. All were convicted.

Read more (in Portuguese).

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