A former teacher pleaded not guilty in a court hearing Thursday to a charge of disrupting a graduation ceremony at a public high school in Tokyo last year by opposing the singing of “Kimigayo,” the national anthem.

Katsuhisa Fujita, 64, was indicted for telling parents on March 11, 2004: “This graduation ceremony is abnormal. Teaching staff are punished when they do not stand up and sing when they are called to sing the national anthem. If possible, please remain seated.”

Prosecutors alleged that Fujita, when asked by the school principal and other school officials to leave the premises, shouted, “Don’t touch me. I am a social studies teacher.”

The prosecution said his actions disrupted and delayed the start of the ceremony, to which Fujita had been invited as a guest.

The seven-year veteran retired from Tokyo Metropolitan Itabashi Senior High School in March 2002.

At the first court hearing, Fujita asked the court to dismiss the indictment, saying, “I still cannot understand at all why a complaint had to be filed against me, why my home was raided and why I have been indicted.”

The defense counsel said the indictment is intended to “suppress voices against the compulsory flying of the national flag and singing the national anthem at (public) schools.”

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