Wildfire accused faces 191 charges

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A man accused of starting one of the deadly wildfires that swept through southern Australia earlier this year appeared in court today on 191 charges linked to the blaze.

Brendan Sokaluk, 39, appeared in Melbourne Magistrates' Court via video link from the prison where he is being held.

Among the charges he is facing are 10 counts of arson causing death, intentionally causing a bushfire, criminal damage, recklessly causing injury and possessing child pornography.

He has not entered a plea and faces life in prison if convicted of all charges.

The fires that ripped across Victoria on 7 February were the deadliest in Australia's history, killing 173 people and destroying more than 2,000 homes.

Sokaluk is charged with starting one of the blazes, which investigators say led to the deaths of 10 people.

Magistrate Simon Garnett set a pre-trial hearing date for 31 May, with 610 witnesses expected to testify over six weeks. That hearing will determine whether there is enough evidence to send Sokaluk to a jury trial.

He was ordered to remain in custody.