The Tokyo District Court on Monday sentenced former Air Self-Defense Force chief Toshio Tamogami to 22 months in prison, suspended for five years, for making illegal payments to his campaign staff during his unsuccessful run for Tokyo governor in February 2014.

In rejecting his not-guilty plea, the court ruled that Tamogami, 68, "did not come up with the idea of providing payments or lead the plan, but approved it" and ordered that some of the payments be raised.

Presiding Judge Kazunori Karei said Tamogami "lacked awareness as a candidate and cannot escape harsh condemnation" but suspended the sentence in light of Tamogami's disbanding of his political organization and his acknowledgment of his moral responsibility for the crime.

"It is truly regrettable. I thought I would be cleared of the allegation," Tamogami said at a news conference after the ruling, adding that he intends to appeal.

"There was no specific evidence of conspiracy (with my staff), and I doubt the trial was held fairly," he said.

The ruling said that Tamogami conspired with senior campaign staff in paying ¥2 million to his then-campaign manager Nobuteru Shimamoto, 70, and a total of ¥2.8 million to five other staffers between March and May 2014.

Election law forbids paying campaign staff in principle because it amounts to bribery.

During the trial, Tamogami said he feels moral responsibility over the case but denied legal responsibility, saying he never gave prior consent to the payments.

Shimamoto is being tried separately in connection with the case.