07/04/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Nuns Hail Conviction Of Rancher In U.S. Nun Killing

By Chris Herlinger
Religion News Service

NEW YORK (RNS/ENI) The order of nuns that once included Sister Dorothy Stang, a U.S.-born land rights' activist, hailed the conviction of a Brazilian rancher in plotting Stang's 2005 murder in Brazil.

The May 1 conviction of Regivaldo Galvao, in the Brazilian city of Belem, closes a chapter in a case that had drawn international attention over the issue of land rights in the Amazon rainforest.

Stang, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, was killed in 2005. She had been campaigning to preserve rain forest land sought by wealthy ranchers, specifically a plot that had been given by government decree to a group of poor Brazilian farmers. Stang had worked in Brazil for 40 years.

"The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur testify to the action of justice in the trial and sentence of Regivaldo Pereira Galvao," the religious order's U.S.-based office in Massachusetts said in a Monday (May 3) statement. "The international congregation is in solidarity with and support of all who helped to bring this day of justice to Brazil."

Galvao was the fifth person convicted in the case. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison for plotting with another rancher who was also convicted recently of paying a hired assassin about $28,000 for Stang's murder. The other rancher, Vitalmiro Moura, was sentenced on April 13. Three other men, including the gunman, Rayfran das Neves Sales, were previously convicted and sentenced.

Stang was shot repeatedly in February 2005 while working in the town of Anapu in Para, often described as a lawless, frontier state where deforestation has become common. In 2008, Stang was honored posthumously with the United Nations' Prize for Human Rights.

Her religious order said: "For the first time in the history of Para, all those indicted for assassination in a land conflict were brought to trial and convicted for criminal activity in the Transamazon region."