MURRIETA, Calif. - A self-described polygamist accused of torturing and starving many of his 19 children and stepchildren testified yesterday the family fasted as part of their Muslim faith but were not deprived of food, and he never crushed their toes with a hammer.

During the trial, a string of Mansa Musa Muhummed's children and wives have described horrific abuse, including being beaten with paddles, strung up by their feet, denied food and forced to eat vomit and feces. Doctors have said the children were extremely malnourished. A 19-year-old daughter was 4-foot-1 and weighed 56 pounds.

Muhummed, 55, has pleaded not guilty to torturing seven of the children, abusing 12 of them and falsely imprisoning two wives. He faces up to seven life sentences if convicted. *