Former LDP heavyweight Masakuni Murakami, on trial for allegedly taking bribes from industrial mutual-aid organization KSD, maintained his innocence as his trial drew to a close Tuesday.

The Tokyo District Court will hand down its ruling on Murakami on May 20.

He is accused of taking more than 70 million yen in bribes from KSD, which provides industrial accident insurance to small businesses.

Prosecutors have demanded Murakami, 70, serve 3 1/2 years in prison and cough up a fine of 72 million yen.

“I have never engaged in any act of bribery,” Murakami said in a statement. “I cannot die in peace unless I am cleared of the unjust accusation by winning a not guilty ruling.”

Murakami, a former labor minister who once wielded power as a leading member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Upper House caucus, accepted 50 million yen in cash from KSD in 1996 as a reward for asking questions in the Diet in ways that benefited the organization’s plans to build a university, prosecutors said.

In 1998, KSD also paid the rent for Murakami’s office to the tune of 22.8 million yen, they said.

During Tuesday’s court session, Murakami’s defense team argued that the testimony of former KSD President Tadashi Koseki — on which the prosecutors’ case against Murakami is based — is untrustworthy.

The lawyers charged that Koseki, 81, has lied in court and that the prosecutors’ version of events is contradicted by evidence.

In September, Takao Koyama, another former LDP lawmaker implicated in the KSD scandal, was sentenced by the same court to 22 months in prison for accepting 20 million yen from KSD for asking similar questions in the Diet. Koyama has appealed the ruling to a higher court.

Koseki was convicted earlier of bribing Murakami and Koyama and embezzling 80 million yen from KSD. He avoided incarceration, receiving only a suspended three-year prison term.

KSD, a government-authorized organization supervised by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, was established in 1964 by Koseki, who once worked at a labor standards office.

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