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Mass 'sorcery' murder trial begins in PNG

 A photo taken on February 6, 2013 shows a crowd watching as a young mother accused of sorcery, is stripped naked, reportedly tortured with a branding iron, tied up, splashed with fuel and set alight on a pile of rubbish topped with car tyres, in Mount Hagen city in the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea. [Photo: AFP / Post Courier via RNZI]

A trial has begun in Papua New Guinea of 122 people accused of wilful murder, in what is the country's largest sorcery-related court case.

The Post Courier reports that 97 of the "Ramu 122" appeared in court in Madang on Thursday.

Twenty-four others, who had been released on bail, failed to show. One other suspect had since died.

They are all accused of murdering seven people, including two children, who they accused of using sorcery.

According to the prosecution, in April 2014, the accused from six different villages met to plan their attack.

They gathered at Ranara armed with bows, arrows, guns, bush knives and axes, and proceeded to Sakiko village where the people were believed to be seeking refuge.

The court heard that the men killed a random man on their way to the township, where they then proceeded to kill four more people and the two children.

The trial continues.