Japan's Lower House speaker denies inappropriate ties with ex-Unification Church

The speaker of Japan's Lower House has denied having any inappropriate relations with the religious group widely known as the Unification Church, saying he never asked the group to cooperate in national elections.

Hosoda Hiroyuki on Tuesday met senior ruling and opposition lawmakers from six parties. The meeting was set for Hosoda to answer questions about his ties with the group. He had been accused of not offering sufficient explanation on the matter.

Hosoda said he never received any requests from the group and that he had thought it was an organization wishing for world peace and family happiness. He also said he came to know about the group's alleged shady marketing schemes only after former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo was fatally shot by a relative of one of its members.

Hosoda stressed that he never asked for cooperation in national elections when he headed a faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

On attending gatherings related to the group, he said he went to eight such meetings as he previously admitted.

He also explained remarks he made at an international conference four years ago that was attended by the group's current head Han Hak-ja. Hosoda reportedly said at the event that he would report to then Prime Minister Abe about the content of the conference.

The Lower House speaker said he made such remarks, but did not make a report to Abe.