A school principal accused of child sex abuse looks set to finally to face extradition proceedings, after a Jerusalem judge called time on her long-running legal battle to stay out of court.
Malka Leifer landed in Israel in 2008 after accusations that she had abused girls in her care at Melbourne’s Adass Israel School — but has not faced trial for extradition as her defence team has claimed she is mentally unstable.
Her accusers — three sisters — have claimed that she is faking mental illness, a claim backed by Israel’s police force and state prosecutors.
Today, Judge Chana Lomp also accepted this claim. She declared at Jerusalem District Court, after the 67th hearing in what has become one of Israel’s most notorious sex abuse cases, that the defendant is mentally fit to stand trial. Leifer was not present.
“This is huge,” said Dassi Ehrlich, one of the accusers, adding that she felt felt “too many emotions to process.”
Manny Waks, the victim’s rights activist who has been lobbying Israel on behalf of the accusers, told the JC: “Being in the court and hearing the ruling after so long was overwhelming. I left the court room with goose bumps all over my body.”
He said that he hopes the new ruling represents a “180 degree turn from the incompetent and negligent way” the Israeli legal system conducted itself until now, suggesting that it should have dealt with the case far more quickly.
Prosecutors Matan Akiva and Avital Ribner Oron said in a statement: “We are pleased that after lengthy proceedings, the court has accepted our arguments and ruled that Malka Leifer is mentally competent to undergo extradition proceedings and further ruled that Malka Leifer has been faking her mental incompetence for the purpose of evading extradition to Australia.”
Defence lawyer Yehuda Fried told the JC: "It is a trial that has gone through many upheavals. We need to study the decision professionally. We will certainly appeal the decision and we believe the Supreme Court will accept the appeal.”
The case of Leifer, an Israeli citizen, has strained Israel-Australia relations and has also generated a political scandal in Israel. Proceedings have hinged on the question of whether Leifer was mentally fit to stand trial. In August, police recommended inducting then-Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman for allegedly attempting to influence state psychiatrists, who at one key point prompted the case to be put on hold for months by deciding that she is mentally unstable.