A member of a powerful political clan in the Philippines has pleaded not guilty to 41 counts of murder and denied responsibility for a massacre in which 57 people died.
Andal Ampatuan Jr. is the mayor of a small town in Maguindanao province, of which his father is governor.
Ampatuan Jr. is accused of ambushing a convoy that was travelling to register a rival candidate for upcoming gubernatorial elections.
Among the victims killed were 30 journalists as well as pregnant women and innocent bystanders. Prosecutors have so far brought 41 murder charges against the defendant but are said to be preparing 16 more.
Four other members of the Ampatuan clan, including the provincial governor, face charges of rebellion. The family has political links to the president of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. She has vowed to bring those responsible for the massacre to justice.
The trial in the capital Manila is set to be a major test of the country’s judicial system; previous trials with political undertones have produced highly controversial verdicts.
The hearing has been adjourned until next week, with judges considering Ampatuan Jr’s request for bail.