Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura, aka Bida, the landowning farmer accused of being one of the people who ordered the murder of the American missionary, Dorothy Stang in 2005, surrendered to the Civil Police in the city of Altamira, in the state of Pará on Saturday, February 6.
This followed a decision by Brazil’s main appellate court (Supreme Court of Justice – STJ) overturning a habeas corpus and ordering him back to jail.
Dorothy Stang was assassinated on Feb 12, 2005, in Anapu, state of Pará, where she worked with poor, landless farmers helping them obtain property rights and avoid being exploited by big landowners in the area.
Bida was tried in 2007, found guilty and sentenced to the maximum sentence in Brazil: 30 years. However, a new trial in 2008 found him innocent. Brazilian government attorneys (Public Ministry) filed a lawsuit against that decision and got it overturned by a Pará state court.
But he remained out of jail because his lawyers obtained a habeas corpus – it was this habeas corpus that the STJ revoked on Thursday, Feb 4, making his return to jail inevitable. However, his lawyers are already preparing the papers to file for a new habeas corpus and free him again.
The farmer ended up being freed because in his first he was sentenced to 30-year in prison, which is the maximum in Brazil, a country that doesn’t have death penalty. In cases like that legislation requires a second trial to confirm the sentence. At this second trial, Bida was found not guilty.
The decision to send him back to jail was not unanimous. One of the judges, Arnaldo Esteves Lima, the same one who gave him the habeas corpus, cited the fact that technically Bida was innocent because of the decision in his second trial, and voted returning him to prison.
But the majority of the judges accepted another decision in December 2009 by Pará state’s Justice Court based on a lawsuit filed by government attorneys, which annulled the second trial.
The Dorothy Stang murder has become an international cause célèbre, but achieving some form of justice and closure has become frustrating and confusing.
To make matters worse, the man who is believed to have been the mastermind behind the crime, the person who ordered and paid for it, another landowning farmer, Regivaldo Pereira Galvão, aka Taradão (Big Pervert), has been indicted but, five years after the crime, still has not gone on trial, not even once.