Charges over mass murder

THE patriarch of a powerful clan pleaded not guilty today to charges he masterminded the 2009 massacre of at least 57 political opponents and journalists in the Philippines’ worst election-related killings.

Andal Ampatuan Sr was arraigned in a special court inside a Manila maximum-security prison, 18 months after he and a dozen family members were arrested over the killings in southern Maguindanao province.

With his father’s approval, Ampatuan’s son, former town mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr, is accused of leading about 150 gunmen who allegedly stopped an election caravan and mowed down the family and supporters of their political rival.

Most of the victims were women and included 31 journalists and their staff, the single worst killing of media workers in the world.

A total of 196 people have been charged with multiple murder, 88 of whom are in custody, and 57 have been arraigned. More than 50 others are still at large.

Andal Ampatuan Jr and the others previously have pleaded not guilty.

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