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Philippines mayor pleads not guilty to massacre murder charges

[JURIST] Andal Ampatuan Jr., mayor of the southern Philippine town of Datu Unsay, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to 41 counts of murder related to the November massacre in Maguindanao province that left 57 dead. Prosecutors allege [NYT report] that Ampatuan and a large group of his men took a party of his opposition's supporters and journalists to a remote hilltop where the victims were murdered and buried. No live media coverage was allowed at the Quezon City regional trial court. The trial will resume [Manila Bulletin report] on January 13, when the prosecution is expected to call at least 12 witnesses in an attempt to block Ampatuan's petition for bail. Ampatuan is expected to be charged with 57 counts of murder [Philippine Star report], with the other murder complaints still pending before the Philippines Department of Justice (PDOJ) [official website].

Last week, the PDOJ began the trial [JURIST report] of more than 600 people charged with rebellion for allegedly interfering with government operations following the killings. Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo [official website] imposed martial law [JURIST report] and suspended habeas corpus in the province in the wake of the killings. She later lifted the conditions, following international pressure and domestic legal challenges [JURIST reports].

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