Israeli woman may face extradition to Australia over child abuse

Former religious school principal faces possible extradition to Australia following claims of child abuse.

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AFP,

Gavel (illustration)
Gavel (illustration)
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Israeli prosecutors asked a Jerusalem court Tuesday to extradite a woman to Australia over accusations of sexually abusing pupils, after a new psychiatric evaluation determined her fit to stand trial.

Malka Leifer is facing accusations of child sex abuse from when she was a teacher and principal at a Jewish school in Melbourne, Australia, where she had relocated from her native Israel, according to Israeli police.

According to Australian media, Leifer is facing 74 counts of child sex abuse.

After allegations surfaced against her in 2008, Leifer and her family left for Israel and have been living in the predominantly haredi Samaria town of Emmanuel.

A previous extradition attempt between 2014-2016 failed after Leifer was hospitalized in mental institutions and expert opinions determined she was not fit to stand trial.

But undercover private investigators filmed Leifer depositing a check at the bank and shopping, prompting Israeli authorities to launch an investigation to see if she was pretending to suffer from mental illness to avoid extradition, leading to her February 12 arrest.

At Tuesday's hearing at the Jerusalem district court, Leifer sat silently, her head bowed and her eyes hid from sight. An Australian diplomat attended part of the session alongside a few members of Leifer's community.

Prosecutors presented a new psychiatric evaluation determining Leifer could face justice.

"I'm asking the court to accept this evaluation and determine the defendant is fit to stand trial and set a discussion" toward Leifer's extradition, prosecutor Matan Akiva said.

But judge Chana Miriam Lomp accepted the defense’s argument that the new evaluation was not acceptable as it lacked the district psychiatrist's signature.

In addition, Leifer's attorney Yehuda Fried said he had not received all the evidence claiming to show his client was faking her mental condition.

Lomp ordered Akiva to hand the defense the evidence used by police to determine their suspicions and said a further hearing would take place in two months.

Speaking with journalists after the hearing, Fried was confident the debate over whether Leifer could be extradited would take "years," saying the new psychiatric evaluation "has no legal value".

"We'll demand to receive all the investigation materials. After getting all the materials, we will ask for another evaluation," he said.

"If the court decides to halt the extradition process -- excellent," Fried said. "If not, we'll ask to investigate all the experts since 2014 who presented evaluations, and during those investigations we will determine whether or not she is fit to stand trial or not."

Leifer's case has drawn attention from Australian media since her re-arrest earlier this month, with Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews saying he has lobbied Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu directly on the issue.








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