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SAO PAULO, Brazil — A priest linked with the Brazilian bishops’ Pastoral Land Commission was arrested and charged with extortion and cash laundering.

Fr. José Amaro Lopes de Souza was taken into custody by authorities March 27. He serves Santa Luzia of Anapu parish, in the northern Brazilian state of Para, and was an in depth pal and associate of the late U.S. missionary Sr. Dorothy Stang, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who was killed by ranchers in February 2005.

Judge Andre Monteiro Gomes, head Justice of the Peace of the Anapu area, stated there’s proof the priest had incited violence amongst landless peasants, urging them to occupy land in the area.

He added that it appeared cash had been transferred by farmers to family of non secular women and men serving in the area in trade for not having their land occupied.

“One can observe the persuasive force of the representative (priest) in influencing a whole group, inducing them to commit serious crimes, such as homicides, and there are indications as well of the supply of weapons,” learn the fees filed by a courtroom consultant.

In a letter, Bishop Joao Muniz Alves of Xingu and retired Bishop Erwin Krautler expressed help for the priest, whom they known as an “unrelenting” defender of human rights, of land regularization, agrarian reform and landless settlements. They stated the priest’s arrest is a method to “delegitimize his commitment on behalf of the underprivileged.”

The Xingu area in the Amazon has been plagued for years by violence and bloody confrontations amongst landless peasants and indigenous individuals in search of land rights and rich farmers and ranchers.

“We repudiate the accusations that he is promoting land invasions that are recognized by the courts as public land for agrarian reform,” stated bishops wrote, noting that the lands stay in the fingers of rich, highly effective individuals.

The priest, referred to as Fr. Amaro, has labored in Santa Luzia parish since 1998. He is the coordinator of the area’s Pastoral Land Commission and was an integral member of the sustainable growth venture Stang began for peasants and small farmers.

The Landless Workers Movement in the area stated in a social media publish that the rich and highly effective landowners wish to “kill him (the priest) little by little with this prison.”

“Father Amaro was a friend and constant companion in the defense of small farmers and small property owners with Sister Dorothy,” the publish stated. “Since she was murdered in 2005, he has taken over the fighting in Anapu and has always been pursued for it, even being threatened several times with death.”

Local media reported that the priest was despatched to the identical jail as Regivaldo Pereira Galvao, a rancher convicted of Stang’s homicide.

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