Israel's Top Court Clears Way to Extradite Accused Pedophile Malka Leifer to Australia

Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz
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Accused pedophile Malka Leifer at Jerusalem's District Court in 2018.
Accused pedophile Malka Leifer at Jerusalem's District Court in 2018.Credit: Mahmoud Illean / AP
Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz

Israel's top court rejected an appeal by accused pedophile Malka Leifer against her extradition to Australia, ruling that she is fit to stand trial and removing the final legal hurdles blocking her extradition process, after years of stalled proceedings.

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Israeli authorities can now follow through with Leifer's extradition process.

Leifer fled to Israel in 2008 after being indicted in Australia for 74 counts of rape and sexual assault in the sexual abuse of three sisters who were her students while she served as the headmistress of a Jewish school in Australia.

She was located by the Israel Police in 2014 and has since claimed that she is mentally unfit to stand trial, and in doing so, halted her extradition process.

An expert panel that advised the Supreme Court in Leifer's case said that she was "clearly an imposter." The judges said in their ruling that proceedings have dragged out "much beyond what is reasonable."

She is currently in Israeli custody amid an ongoing extradition battle that has strained relations between the two countries.

In a July hearing, Leifer's attorney Nick Kaufman claimed there are a number of reasons as to why Leifer should not be extradited, including that she will not receive a fair trial in Australia if she is. “After the court in Israel ruled that she was pretending [to be mentally unfit to stand trial], this will influence the jury in Australia,” he said. “In light of the widespread reports in the global media, she will not receive a fair trial in Australia.”

In 2008, Leifer fled Australia after accusations surfaced that she had abused students at Melbourne’s ultra-Orthodox Adass Israel School for girls. Leifer, who has Israeli citizenship, secretly relocated to a remote religious settlement in the West Bank.

She resided there until Israeli police located and arrested her in 2014, following an official extradition request from the Australian authorities.

During the lengthy legal process in which Leifer's lawyers argued that she was unfit to stand trial, which according to Israeli law prevents her from being extradited, she was deemed mentally unwell for some time and released from custody.

But then the police rearrested her after being tipped off by private investigators for Jewish Community Watch, an advocacy group for Jewish survivors of child sexual assault, who caught her on videotape appearing stable and interacting normally with neighbors and shopkeepers.

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