Malka Leifer
Malka Leifer Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

The trial of a former haredi school principal accused of rape and child molestation began Monday in Melbourne, Australia, following more than a decade of legal delays and extradition proceedings.

Malka Leifer, 55, faces 74 charges of rape, indecent assault, and child molestation, stemming from her time as principal of the Adass Israel School in Melbourne from 2003 to 2008.

The Melbourne Magistrates Court began hearing testimony from three women accusing Leifer of abusing them more than a decade ago, as the court deliberates over whether to send the trial to a higher court.

The three women testifying at this stage of the trial are Elly Sapper, Dassi Erlich and Nicole Meyer – sisters who learned Adass Israel and who have accused Leifer of sexual abuse when they were students.

The allegations against Leifer first came to light in 2008, but Australian authorities were unable to arrest Leifer before she fled the country, moving to Israel, where she remained until her extradition in January 2021.

While Australia requested Leifer’s extradition in 2012, Leifer was not arrested in Israel until August 2014.

In 2016, however, Leifer’s extradition proceedings were frozen after experts backed claims she was unfit to stand trial.

Two years later, a reassessment – following work by private investigators – found that Leifer was in fact fit to stand trial, restarting the extradition process.