US nun's killer placed under Brazil house arrest

A man sentenced to 27 years in prison for the 2005 murder of US nun Dorothy Stang has been placed under house arrest in Brazil after serving only eight years behind bars, a lawyer said Thursday.

Rayfran das Neves Sales "was released Tuesday and is already home. A judge determined that he had already served his sentence," said Jose Batista Afonso, a lawyer for the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) in the northen state of Para.

CPT has for years campaigned to advance social justice and the rights of small farmers and the landless in Brazil.

Stang, 73, was shot to death on February 12, 2005 in the town of Anapu, 700 kilometers (450 miles) from the Para state capital of Belem after meeting with landless peasants on an ecological project.

Local ranchers accused her at the time of inciting landless farmers to invade their lands.

Neves Sales confessed and was jailed two days after the murder.

His accomplice, Clodoaldo Batista, was sentenced to 17 years in jail while Amair Feijoli, who acted as a go-between with the killers, got an 18-year term.

Defense lawyer Raimundo Cavalcante explained to reporters that after serving one sixth of his sentence, Neves Sales first had his jail conditions eased before being put under house arrest Tuesday.

"There will be some restrictions, as behind back home at 10 p.m. and he has 60 days to find a job," the lawyer said.

The Stang case grabbed headlines in Brazil and became a symbol of the end of impunity for the killing of landless squatter farmers who often have clashed with big landowners, especially in the country's remote rural areas.

But last May, the Supreme Court quashed the 20-year jail sentence on landowner Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura, one of the two men who ordered Stang's murder.

The Court argued that the defense had not had enough time to study the case.