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American nun assassinated in Brazil


An American nun who spent decades fighting efforts by loggers and large landowners to expropriate lands and clear large areas of the Amazon rainforest was shot to death on Saturday in northern Brazil.

Sr Dorothy Stang, 74, was shot in the face three times near the town of Anapu, about 1800 km north of Sao Paulo in the Amazon region, federal police officer Fernando Raiol said. The early morning attack came less than a week after Stang met Human Rights Secretary Nilmario Miranda to report that four local farmers had received death threats from loggers and landowners.

Last year, loggers accused Sr Stang of inciting violence in the region and supplying weapons and ammunition to local people, a claim her family denies.

"This is extremely serious," Miranda told reporters. "We cannot allow this murder to go unpunished."

The Brazilian government compared the murder with the 1988 killing of Chico Mendes, the renowned rubber tapper who drew international attention to Amazon rainforest destruction.

"It's the type of crime that shows a profound disrespect for a democratic society, like the crime against Chico Mendes," Justice Minister Marcio Thomaz Bastos told the Estado news agency.

The Church's Land Pastoral in Brazil, an organisation that helps landless farmers, condemned the incident as an "assassination."

Stang, a members of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur, is native of Dayton, Ohio. She had lived in Brazil since the early 1960s and worked in the region for more than 20 years. She was headed to a meeting with local peasants when her group was attacked, police said. No one else was hurt.

Two suspects have been taken into custody, police said.

Stang's niece Angela Mason, who lives in Dayton, Ohio, said her aunt had told her family there was a price on her head.

"She was basically protected by her status as being an old lady and being a nun. She also recently became a Brazilian citizen, and she thought that would help but it obviously didn't," Mason said.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva ordered a thorough investigation into Stang's murder.

About 15 federal officers were immediately dispatched to the crime scene, police said. Miranda and Environment Minister Marina Silva also were sent to Anapu to oversee the investigation.

Last June, Stang was honoured by the state of Para for her work in the Amazon region. In December, she received an award from the Brazilian Bar Association for her work helping the local rural workers.

"She was awesome. A little old bundle of joy," Mason said. "She was the happiest person. She needed nothing. She just loved the people down there."

SOURCE
American Nun Shot to Death in Brazil (The Guardian/Associated Press 13/2/05)

LINKS
Urgent Action Appeal on behalf of Sister Dorothy Stang
Sisters of Notre Domae de Namur | Sister Dorothy Stang murdered in Brazil | Congregation bonded in grief, shock; leadership reacts
Blood Wood

MORE SR DOROTHY STANG STORIES
American Nun Shot to Death in Brazil (The Herald-Sun Durham North Carolina/Associated Press 12/2/05)
Nun Battling Loggers in Brazil Slain (Associated Press/Los Angeles Times 13/2/05)
American missionary killed in Brazil (Sydney Morning Herald 14/2/05)



14 Feb 2005