A Jerusalem court ruled Monday that a 53-year-old former Australian educator who fled to Israel can be extradited to face charges of child sex abuse.
The Jerusalem District Court ruled that Malka Leifer can be returned to Australia to stand trial for 74 charges of sexual abuse against minors. Monday's ruling found that there are sufficient grounds in the case to merit extradition, after the court ruled that Leifer is mentally fit to face charges.
"The defendant can be extradited to Australia for the crimes attributed to her in the extradition
request," the court said in its ruling.
Leifer, the former principal of the Adass Yisrael girl’s school in Melbourne, fled Australia in 2008 shortly before she was formally indicted on child molestation charges. She eventually moved to the town of Emmanuel, in Samaria, where she was later arrested.
Beginning in 2014, Leifer evaded extradition, claiming to be mentally unfit to stand trial. After an investigation, however, Leifer was arrested again in 2018, and her claims to be mentally unfit reassessed.
Earlier this month,Israel's Supreme Court rejected an appeal filed on Leifer's behalf and affirmed the findings of the Jerusalem District Court this May that Leifer is mentally fit to face deportation and to stand trial.
Australia has pressed Israel to extradite Leifer, including calls by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who urged Israel to “transparently and quickly” extradite her.
Monday's ruling does not finalize Leifer's deportation.
Leifer may appeal the court's decision to the Supreme Court.
If the Supreme Court rejects her appeal, Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn must certify the extradition order.
The Israeli Justice Ministry endorsed Leifer's extradition Monday, and lauded the court's ruling.
"After lengthy and complex extradition proceedings, today the District Court declared Malka Leifer extraditable to Australia," a ministry spokeswoman said.
"Today is an important and significant day for the rule of law, for international cooperation and most importantly for those who were victims of Malka Leifer's crimes. The petition to the Jerusalem District Court to declare Malka Leifer extraditable to Australia was filed in 2014."
"Since then, she has made every effort to delay the proceedings and avoid extradition, including repeated attempts to convince the court that she was not competent to undergo extradition proceeding. Today, the court put an end to those efforts by declaring her extraditable. We are very pleased with the outcome of the court's decision and look forward to the continued and successful cooperation between Israel and Australia."