Brazil: Alleged Killer of US Nun Says He Acted in Self-Defense

The man accused of killing American nun and rain forest defender Dorothy Stang told a jury Friday that he acted in self-defense after mistaking her Bible for a gun.

Rayfran das Neves Sales is accused of killing Stang, 73, with six shots from a .38-caliber revolver on February. 12 on a muddy road deep in the heart of the Amazon rain forest.

Sales testified he and Stang had an argument over who owned the land he was working, and that Stang threatened to "finish him off" with the help of some 150 people living on a sustainable development reserve she was trying to establish.

"She said, ‘The weapon I have is this,’ and reached into her bag," Sales said. "I didn’t know what she was going to pull out of her bag so I shot her."

Prosecutors allege that rancher Vitalmiro Moura offered Sales and co-defendant Clodoaldo Carlos Batista US$ 25,000 (50,000 reais) to kill the nun, who spent the last 30 years of her life defending poor settlers in the rain forest. The prosecution contends that she was reading her Bible when she was shot at close range.

Batista told the court he was unaware that Sales was armed and about to kill Stang when the two met her in the forest.

During the trial, which is expected to last through Saturday, December 10, prosecutors showed videotapes of confessions that contradicted the defendants’ testimony at the trial. They also showed three videotaped reenactments of the crime filmed shortly after the killing.

In two of the tapes, each of the defendants separately re-enacted their version of events. A third version was provided by the only eyewitness to the killing _ a man who appeared in court wearing a ski-mask and a bulletproof vest.

Stang’s brother and sister, who flew from the United States to attend the trial, were visibly upset by the video.

"I wasn’t watching it. I only saw the scene in my head. I couldn’t watch it," said Marguerite Stang, 72, who was in tears and had to be comforted by one of the nun’s who worked with her late sister.

In his testimony Friday, Sales sought to remove blame from his co-defendant and from Moura, one of two ranchers accused of orchestrating the killing.

Sales acknowledged that his employer, Amair Feijoli, had given him the gun and told him to kill the nun a day earlier. But Sales denied being offered money to kill her.

Feijoli has been charged with acting as a go-between for the gunmen and ranchers.

A Brazilian Senate commission found the killing was part of a wider conspiracy involving a number of ranchers. Only Moura and rancher Regivaldo Galvão have been charged with orchestrating the shooting.

This article appeared originally in Pravda – www.pravda.ru.

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