Alleged Australian child abuser to face extradition in Israel this month
By Oliver Holmes
May 2, 2018
A former Melbourne head teacher wanted by Australian police on 74 charges of child sex abuse will face extradition proceedings this month, a judge in Israel has ruled.
At the Jerusalem district court on Wednesday, the judge delayed the hearing until 16 May and ordered the prosecution to hand over evidence it claims shows Malka Leifer is mentally fit to be extradited.
Guards escorted Leifer, 54, into court on Wednesday with her hands cuffed.
Manny Waks, an Australian activist who works to combat child sex abuse in the Jewish community and lives in Israel, was present and walked up to Leifer after she was brought into the courtroom. “Can I ask you for a message to send to the girls that you abused?” Waks asked. Leifer gave no response.
Leifer, 54, stood only when the judge entered the room, but spent the majority of the trial hunkered over with her head buried in her arms, even bending down entirely at times behind the court dock. At one point, she appeared in distress and the judge permitted a request from a guard for her to leave the room.
Leifer was head of the ultra-orthodox Adass Israel girls school in Melbourne, but left Australia for Israel in 2008 after the allegations were raised. The school was ordered in 2015 to pay more than $1.1m in compensatory damages.
Her alleged victims have been fighting for her return to Australia as Leifer lives in the occupied West Bank settlement of Emmanuel.
A previous extradition attempt failed after Leifer was admitted to mental institutions and experts determined she was not fit to stand trial. However, after a private investigator surreptitiously filmed what he said was Leifer living a “normal, healthy”, including showing her shopping, she was rearrested on 12 February.
Israeli police said the undercover investigation found “indications that the suspect was pretending to be suffering from a mental illness to avoid the extradition process”.
Leifer’s lawyer, Yehuda Fried, has argued a private investigator was not qualified to determine whether his client was fit to stand trial.
The Australian embassy had previously welcomed news of Leifer’s arrest and said it was “grateful for the ongoing work and assistance of the Israeli authorities in bringing her to justice”. An embassy official was present on Wednesday.
In addition to the extradition case, Leifer also faces the possibility of an indictment under contempt of court charges.
“Malka Leifer’s day of reckoning is getting closer,” said Waks after the hearing ended.