Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said that everything he may have allegedly done to prevent the extradition of a suspected pedophile to Australia “was for the public’s benefit, and in accordance with the law. I did exactly what I was supposed to do.”
His remarks, made at a ceremony for the opening of a new children’s wing at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, were all he would say about the police investigation into allegations that he pressured psychiatrists to declare Malka Leifer, the former principal of an ultra-Orthodox girls’ school in Melbourne, unfit to stand trial. Police say they have testimony from several psychiatrists about the pressure exerted on them, which included threats to remove them from their jobs if they didn’t cooperate.
Leifer, who fled to Israel in 2008, is charged with 74 counts of rape and sexual assault against three sisters who had been her students. Police said the psychiatrists were asked to submit a professional evaluation that Leifer was not fit to stand trial so she wouldn’t be extradited.
At least one psychiatrist, Dr. Kobi Charns, refused three times to sign an opinion saying the opposite – that she was pretending to be mentally ill to avoid prosecution.
The president of the Australasian Jewish Medical Federation in Victoria, Dr. Miriam Kuttner, wrote a letter of complaint about this to the ethics department of the Israel Medical Association.The Leifer case is not the first in which Litzman’s involvement in the area of mental health has raised questions.
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In 2009, Channel 2 News reported that he had approached senior psychiatrists and asked them to issue more lenient evaluations of ultra-Orthodox sex offenders who were serving prison sentences.