Net closes in on fugitive Aussie teacher

 

Fugitive teacher Malka Leifer will find out next week if she will be sent back to Australia, as the net closes in on a bid to extradite her on 74 child sex abuse charges.

The Israel Supreme Court of Israel heard final legal arguments about Australia's demand she face justice over the allegations about her time at Melbourne's Adass Israel School.

The hearing was Leifer's final appeal in a saga that had dragged on since 2008 when she fled the country after the school was told of the allegations.

Melbourne sisters Nicole Meyer, Elly Sapper, and Dassi Erlich accused Leifer of abuse while she was head of the ultraorthodox school in Elsternwick.

The 74th hearing in the case took more than an hour, but the judgement was reserved with a decision likely next week.

Leifer's defence lawyers tried to claim that the alleged offences were not serious enough to warrant her extradition.

However, a judge said that it was up to Australian courts to consider the evidence, with Israel's court only considering whether she was mentally fit to stand trial.

Leifer, 52, was not in court and did not appear on video link.

Malka Leifer has been on the run since 2008.
Malka Leifer has been on the run since 2008.

Manny Waks, of Jewish sexual abuse survivors group Voicsa, said he expected the court would accept a ruling from the Jerusalem District court that she was fit to face trial in Australia.

"In the Supreme Court's most recent ruling relating to Leifer's mental fitness, the same three-panel of judges who will preside at this week's appeal said that proceedings had dragged out 'much beyond what is reasonable'," he said.

"We therefore expect a prompt and unequivocal decision by the Supreme Court: that Malka Leifer must be extradited to Australia as soon as possible."

If the decision went against Leifer, she could be returned to Australia within months.

The case has become a political football in Israel, with Israeli president Reuven Rivlin telling Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a phone call in May that Leifer would not be allowed to "evade justice".

Leifer was first arrested in Israel in 2014 after an extradition request from Australia, however she was released in 2016 because she claimed she was mentally unwell.

She was rearrested in 2018 after it was found that she has been living a normal life in Jerusalem.

Judge Miriam Lomp, in the Jerusalem District Court, ruled in September that Leifer should be extradited to Australia.

The Supreme Court hearing was her last chance to avoid being sent to Melbourne to face court.

stephen.drill@news.co.uk

Originally published as Net closes in on fugitive Aussie teacher


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