Page last updated at 22:49 GMT, Tuesday, 7 April 2009 23:49 UK

Brazil nun death retrial ordered

Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura (March 2005)
Mr Moura was originally given 30 years for ordering the killing

A court in Brazil has ordered the arrest and retrial of a rancher acquitted of orchestrating the murder of an American nun.

Para state's highest court threw out last year's verdict which found Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura not guilty in the 2005 shooting of Dorothy Stang.

Stang, 73, campaigned for 30 years to save the Amazon rain forest from the interests of wealthy landlords.

Mr Moura was originally found guilty in 2007 and jailed for 30 years.

But the ruling was overturned in a retrial last May after the man who confessed to shooting Stang recanted earlier testimony.

'Acted alone'

Rayfran das Neves Sales insisted that he had acted alone and was sentenced to 28 years in prison.

In the latest twist, three judges voted unanimously on Tuesday to have a jury retry both Mr Moura and Sales because a video that Mr Moura's defence showed the jury should not have been used as evidence.

Dorothy Stang  in February 2004
Dorothy Stang was shot six times and left lying in the mud

Correspondents say Sales could face a longer sentence if it is found that he acted on orders to kill Stang.

The court ordered Mr Moura's immediate return to prison pending final judgement of the case, but the accused man's lawyer said he would appeal.

Stang's murder caused international outrage and came to symbolise the chronic violence which overshadows land disputes in the Amazon.

The nun, from Dayton, Ohio, campaigned for poor farmers' rights in Brazil, and to preserve the rain forest from loggers and developers.

Her killing followed a dispute with ranchers over land they wanted to clear for pasture and which she wanted to protect.

She was shot six times and left lying in the mud in the town of Anapu in Para, a northern frontier state where loggers and ranchers have deforested huge swaths of rain forest.

Prosecutors had contended that Mr Moura and fellow rancher Regivaldo Galvao hired gunmen to kill the nun.

Mr Galvao, who denies the charge, was arrested in 2005 but was freed on bail in 2006 and has not faced trial.

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