Malka Leifer, alleged paedophile, declared mentally fit to be extradited to Australia, Israeli court rules


Key points:

  • Malka Leifer is accused of abusing three sisters during her time as headmistress of the Adass Israel School.
  • She allegedly fled to Israel when she learned a complaint to police was being prepared
  • Her lawyers have claimed that she suffers from clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder

An Israeli court has ruled former Melbourne school principal Malka Leifer is mentally fit to be extradited to Australia, where she faces 74 charges of child sexual abuse.

It means Israeli lawyers can pursue an extradition request lodged by Victoria Police.

Ms Leifer is accused of abusing three sisters during her time as headmistress of the Adass Israel School between 2001 and 2008.

She allegedly fled Australia for Israel in 2008 when she learned the women were planning to file a complaint with police.

Australia lodged an extradition request for Ms Leifer in 2014, but the case has been repeatedly delayed.

Ms Leifer's lawyers have said she suffers from clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and is therefore unfit to face trial in Australia.

But in January a panel of psychiatrists concluded the 54-year-old was faking her mental illness to avoid extradition.

An extradition hearing could begin soon, but Ms Leifer's defence team is expected to immediately lodge an appeal in the Jerusalem High Court.

Leifer was catatonic, then wasn't

This is the 67th hearing in the Jerusalem District Court, in a case that has dragged on for nearly six years.

Australia's extradition request was suspended in 2016 because her lawyers successfully argued that she was catatonic and crippled by depression.

But two years later, a private investigator used a hidden camera to record Ms Leifer out shopping, socialising and commuting.

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A private investigator took footage of Malka Leifer shopping when she was supposedly catatonic.

She has been examined more than 30 times by mental health experts, many of whom have declared her competent.

In January, an expert panel concluded not only that Ms Leifer was well but that she had been perpetrating a "fraud" to avoid justice.

But Ms Leifer's lawyers successfully argued that they needed more time to cross-examine members of the panel before she could face an extradition hearing.

In light of the court's most recent decision, Ms Leifer's defence lawyer Tal Gabbay told the ABC her client "can't fake her illness".

"Back in 2016 the proceedings against Malka Leifer was stopped due to her mental health situation, because experts assigned by the state confirmed she was not fit to face trial," Ms Gabbay said.

'She manipulated the system'

Sisters Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper grew up in the Adass Israel community — a Hasidic Jewish group in Melbourne's inner south.

Sisters Nicole Meyer (left) Dassi Erlich (centre) and Ellie Sapper (right).
Sisters Nicole Meyer (left), Dassi Erlich and Ellie Sapper alleged they were abused by Malka Leifer at the Adass Israel girls school in Victoria.(ABC News: Kyle Harley)

They claim that as teenagers, they were repeatedly sexually abused by their high school principal.

They said they were unaware they were all being molested by their headmistress until years later.

Dassi Erlich sued the Adass Jewish School in 2015, and was awarded $1.27 million in damages against the school and Ms Leifer.

Ms Erlich told the ABC she has "been totally overjoyed" by the Israeli court's decision.

Malka Leifer with school girls
Adass Israel School principal Malka Leifer with the class of alleged victim Nicole Meyer.(Supplied)

The sisters have voiced frustration over the slow progress of the court proceedings in Israel, saying Ms Leifer must face justice in Australia.

The delays have also strained relations between Israel and Australia.

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Former Australian ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma said the delays impacted Australian-Israeli relations.

In February, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Israeli President Reuven Rivlin that Australia needed to see justice in the case.

But today Israeli state attorney Avital Ribner Oron told the ABC that his team was "pleased that the court accepted our arguments".

"This decision today has removed an obstacle that has prevented the court from moving forward in this matter and we look forward to the continuation of this case in a swift and timely matter," Mr Oron said.

 

(Source)


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