Israel Extradites Accused Pedophile Malka Leifer to Australia

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Australian Malka Leifer, right, is brought to a courtroom in Jerusalem, 2018.
Australian Malka Leifer, right, is brought to a courtroom in Jerusalem, 2018. Credit: Mahmoud Illean / AP

Israel has extradited on Monday the accused pedophile Malka Leifer to Australia following a drawn out legal battle.

Israeli media photographed Leifer boarding a plane at Ben Gurion Airport early Monday. Yossi Goldfarb, president of the leading Zionist organization in the Australian state of Victoria, from which Leifer came, welcomed the announcement, saying it was "surely a difficult, but important day for the three courageous sisters who have led the vanguard to ensure that Ms Leifer is brought to justice in Victoria."

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He said the Jewish community "stands behind Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper as the focus shifts from the overly long extradition process to the forthcoming trial.”

Zionist Federation of Australia Jeremy Leibler welcomed the footage of Malka Leifer boarding the plane. “That Leifer was allowed to escape justice for so long was a travesty”, he said. “While it’s a relief that Israel’s justice system has finally prevailed, the time and process that resulted in these delays are completely unacceptable.”

Leibler said Leifer's extradition is largely due to the "tireless efforts of Dassi Erlich and her sisters, as well as their support network."

The Supreme Court denied an appeal earlier this month by Leifer, the former principal of a Jewish school who has been fighting extradition from Israel to Australia, where she is charged with raping and sexually assaulting her former students

“I just signed the extradition order of Malka Leifer to Australia,” Nissenkorn wrote. “After several long years, after a shameful effort to pretend to be mentally ill and in light of the High Court ruling, it is our ethical obligation to allow Leifer to stand trial.”

Sisters Elly Sapper, left, Nicole Meyer and Dassi Erlich, whose accusations led to Malka Leifer facing 74 counts of sexual abuse, answers questions from the press in Jerusalem, March 5, 2019.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Justice Isaac Amit wrote the main opinion in the ruling on behalf of the panel of justices. In a concurring opinion Justice Anat Baron wrote: “[Leifer’s] extradition [to Australia] is necessary to have her face trial there for serious sexual offenses that it is claimed that she committed on her female students while a teacher and principal at a high school in Melbourne.”

Leifer appears to have taken every possible step to avoid extradition and the Supreme Court’s decision puts an end to all of the claims and provides a final declaration that Leifer is extraditable, Baron stated. International extradition agreements must be respected and anyone seeking to escape justice “should not find a city of refuge in Israel.”

"This is a great day for justice," Manny Waks, the CEO of Voice Against Child Sexual Abuse in Australia and a leading figure in the fight to have Leifer extradited, told Haaretz. 

According to Waks, Leifer will remain under arrest until deliberations begin in her case. As a result of expected delays related to COVID, Waks said it's difficult to say when the trial will commence.

Leifer fled to Israel in 2008 after being indicted in Australia for 74 counts of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse of at least eight women who were her students while she served as the headmistress of the ultra-orthodox Adass Israel Jewish school for girls in Melbourne. 

Leifer, who has Israeli citizenship, secretly relocated to a remote religious settlement in the West Bank. She stayed there until Israeli police located and arrested her in 2014, following an official extradition request from the Australian authorities.

The saga of her case has been ongoing for six years, during which there have been dozens of hearings and appeals. Her lawyers have claimed that her mental state has rendered her incompetent to stand trial.

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