A Japanese court handed down suspended sentences to two women from the Philippines on Monday for violating Japan's immigration law, using a video link system to communicate with an interpreter from a different court for the first time.

A Tagalog-Japanese interpreter shown on a large monitor via video link told the two women the rulings when the Yamagata District Court imposed a prison term of 18 months, suspended for three years, on both Singson Blessyl Avilanes, 33, and Ragadio Grace Ann Cabatit, 34, in separate rulings.

Video links had been used to connect the courtroom and a separate room in the same court for witness interrogations. But the revised criminal procedure law took effect in 2018 to allow a witness living away from the court to participate in questions remotely without travelling there.

The same system was also applied to interpreters to address the falling number of such workers amid a rapid increase in demand for them.

The number of registered interpreters fell 4 percent to 3,788 in the four years through 2018, while the number of foreign defendants in need of translation increased nearly 60 percent to 3,757 during the same period, according to the Supreme Court.

According to the ruling, the two women entered Japan on a working visa as cooks but had worked as employees of a cosmetic manufacturing company between October 2017 and October 2019. They had their visas extended after falsely telling immigration authorities that they planned on continuing work as chefs.

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