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The Life and Brutal Death of Sister Dorothy, a Rainforest Martyr

Sister Dorothy Stang lived among those who wanted her dead. When they finally came for her she read passages from the Bible to her killers. They listened for a moment, then fired. Her body was found face down in the mud, blood staining the back of her white blouse.

Sister Dorothy was in the Boa Esperanca settlement when she was killed. She was travelling with two peasants to a meeting to discuss a settlement for the area, which has apparently been granted to peasants by the federal government but which is sought by loggers. The two men travelling with her escaped unhurt and may be able to identify the killers to police, reports suggest.

The stakes could not have been higher. Greenpeace estimates that 90 per cent of the timber in Para is illegally logged. The danger of speaking out against such exploitation could barely have been greater. Campaigners say Para has the country's highest rate of deaths related to land battles. Greenpeace said that more than 40 per cent of the murders between 1985 and 2001 were related to such disputes. The Brazilian human rights group Justica Global said 73 rural workers were murdered in 2003 - 33 of them in Para. Last year 53 were killed. Of those, 19 were killed in Para.

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the latest 24.Feb.2005 19:07