Israel's High Court Decides to Keep Accused Pedophile Malka Leifer in Detention

Leifer, a former school principal accused of sexually abusing her students, is facing extradition to Australia; her case has been dragging on in Israeli courts for years

Malka Leifer during a hearing at Jerusalem District Court, March 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

Israel's High Court of Justice decided on Thursday to keep former school principal Malka Leifer, who is facing 74 charges of indecent assault and rape against her students, in detention. 

Last week, the Jerusalem District Court ordered that Leifer be released to house arrest, to stay with her sister following months in detention. The decision was put on hold for 48 hours during which the prosecution appealed with the High Court, which overruled the Jerusalem's court decision.

Responding to the High Court's ruling, Jewish Community Watch, the organization fighting to end child abuse in the ultra-Orthodox society, stated: "We are pleased that the Supreme Court has adopted the prosecution's arguments and ordered not to release the pedophile Leifer for house arrest."

"Since the district court's decision, the victims have been in a deep crisis, and we hope that the ruling to continue [her] detention will give them some peace of mind," Jewish Community Watch added. 

Earlier this month, the Jerusalem court decided to appoint a panel of experts to determine whether the ex-headmistress, who is facing extradition to Australia, is fit to stand trial and sent back to the country.

The panel will be tasked with determining “whether she is mentally ill, or feigning illness," Jerusalem District Court Judge Chana Miriam Lomp ruled. Psychiatrists looking into the matter have submitted differing opinions during the decade-long proceedings marred with accusations of political influence.

Following the announcement of the panel, Elly Sapper, Nicole Meyer and Dassi Erlich, the three sisters who have been at the forefront of the campaign to have Leifer extradited, lamented that they "did not see justice today."

"Five years, 57 court hearings and over 30 psychiatrists have been involved… how is this not enough? How many more psychiatrists need to weigh in? How much emotional pain? We’re defeated but we will not give up,” the sisters said.

Leifer, who has an Israeli citizenship, was the principal of an ultra-Orthodox all-girls school in Melbourne. In 2008 accusations emerged that she assaulted her students, and hours later she fled to Israel. In 2014, the Australian government filed an extradition request.