The mayor of a small Philippine town, the main suspect in the November massacre of 57 people in the country's troubled south, has pleaded not guilty to murder charges. Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr, wearing handcuffs and flanked by armed security officials, sat quietly and looked bored as a court employee read 41 murder charges against him at a clubhouse turned into a courtroom inside Manila's main police camp.
State prosecutors are readying 16 more murder cases against Mr Ampatuan Jr. to cover each of the 57 people killed, including 30 journalists, some of whom were found in shallow, hastily dug graves at a hilly area in southern Maguindanao province. Most of the victims were on their way to an election office to witness the filing of nomination papers for a member of the Ampatuans' rival political clan when about 100 armed men attacked their convoy.
The killings raised fears next May's national elections would be bloody, particularly the contest for provincial posts. *Reuters