Brazilian rancher found guilty of ordering American nun's death

Brazilian rancher Vitalmiro Bastos Moura, nicknamed Bida, sits in a courtroom during his trial for the murder of U.S.-born nun and activist Dorothy Stang, in Belem at the mouth of the Amazon River, May 15, 2007. REUTERS/Paulo Santos

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - A rancher in Brazil’s Amazon was sentenced to 30 years in prison for ordering the 2005 killing of American nun and environmental activist Dorothy Stang, an emblematic case for the many conflicts over land use in Brazil’s resource-rich interior.

The courtroom was overflowing with Stang’s supporters when Vitalmiro Bastos Moura, 43, was declared guilty just before midnight Thursday, the court in Para state said in a statement.

Fellow activists fiercely criticized Brazil’s judiciary system as moving too slowly and being too lenient in its response to the murder of the 73-year-old Roman Catholic nun.

Stang was shot six times outside the small town of Anapu, where she worked as an advocate for landless peasants. She often criticized cattle ranchers for seizing land illegally and destroying the rainforest.

It was Bastos’ fourth trial in the Stang killing as he had appealed previous verdicts. Another local landowner, Regivaldo Galvão, was found guilty of ordering Stang’s death, but was granted a conditional release by the Supreme Court in 2012.

One of the hitmen accused of shooting Stang on a dirt road on February 12, 2005, walked out of jail in July after serving just six years of a 27-year sentence.

The case highlights continuing tension between farmers and environmentalists in Brazil, which has become a top supplier of beef, corn and soybeans in recent years. Conflicts between indigenous tribes and farmers are also frequent.

Reporting by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Todd Benson and Doina Chiacu