Israel Set to Extradite Accused Pedophile Malka Leifer After Top Court Rejects Appeal

Former school principal Malka Leifer feigned mental illness to avoid extradition to Australia, where she is wanted for 74 counts of sexual abuse ■ Justice minister says will expedite extradition

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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

The Supreme Court denied an appeal on Tuesday by alleged pedophile Malka 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. 

With the Supreme Court ruling clearing the way for Leifer's extradition, the case is now in the hands of Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, who is due to sign off on the extradition order.

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Leifer still has the right to petition the High Court of Justice and challenge her extradition, which would be the last possible legal action that she could take in her lengthy attempt to avoid being returned to Australia. However, the prospects for such a petition appear slim after all of her other legal challenges to the extradition have failed.

Following the district court ruling against Leifer, Justice Minister Nissenkorn stated that he intends to expedite her extradition. 

Nissenkorn said he "welcomes the court's verdict that clears the way for Leifer extradition to Australia.

"After many agonizing years, the time has come to make justice for Leifer's victims. I intend to sign the extradition order without delay," Nissenkorn tweeted.  

Justice Isaac Amit wrote the main opinion in Tuesday’s 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.”

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.

In September, the Supreme Court denied the appeal that her lawyers filed on the issue of her legal competence. A panel of experts, which included the Jerusalem and Haifa district psychiatrists and was convened to review the issue, determined that Leifer “was clearly pretending when it comes to he competence to stand trial and her ability to function.”

In July, her lawyers appealed a district court ruling that she was competent to stand trial in Australia and said that Israel Prison Service psychiatrists had issued a diagnosis that she was suffering from mental illness.

The case has attracted wide publicity in Australia and has weighed on the diplomatic ties between Australia and Israel.

The battle to block Leifer’s extradition has included the involvement of public relations experts and those with political connections in Israel's ultra-Orthodox community.

Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, who is a member of the Ger Hasidic community, is suspected of taking advantage of his position as deputy health minister at the time to intervene on Leifer’s behalf to obtain a medical opinion supporting her claim of incompetence. The police have not yet decided whether to file criminal charges against the minister.

The Zionist Federation of Australia and Zionism Victoria welcome the decision of Israel’s High Court to reject Malka Leifer’s appeal against her extradition.

ZFA President Jeremy Leibler said it is finally time to bring Leifer back.

“Although the final outcome is just, the delays and Leifer’s manipulation of the Israeli legal system have been completely unacceptable. The survivors of the abuse should never have had to wait this long,” Leibler said.

Zionism Victoria President Yossi Goldfarb said he is pleased by the decision dealt by Israel’s High Court justices.

CEO of Voice Against Child Sexual Abuse Manny Waks also praised the High Court's decision, praising the efforts of Leifer's alleged victims, sisters Dassi, Elly and Nicole. 

"This has been a battle which these sisters should never have had to fight. They have done so with grace and dignity at all times and their actions have undoubtedly saved many other children from the horrors which they experienced. They are heroes in every sense of the word," he said in a statement.  

“I look forward to the day, in the not too distant future, when these amazing sisters finally face their alleged abuser in an Australian courtroom”.

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