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Leifer Found Mentally Fit To Stand Trial

SIX years after Australian police filed an extradition request for Malka Leifer to be returned home from Israel, and a staggering 67 court hearings later, a Jerusalem District Court judge has tonight (Australian time) ruled that Leifer is mentally fit to stand trial for extradition.

The decision by Judge Chana Lomp, which has been hailed by Australian Jewish leaders as a “welcome and meaningful step”, is expected to be appealed by Leifer’s defence team in the Supreme Court of Israel. Leifer’s extradition hearing has been scheduled for July 20.

It comes after a panel of three psychiatrists, tasked with assessing Leifer’s mental state, ruled in January this year that the alleged child sexual abuser was capable of facing an extradition trial.

Judge Lomp tonight accepted the unanimous findings of that panel.

Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter said the decision was positive news.

“While today’s decision can be appealed, it is a positive sign and means that formal extradition proceedings can now lawfully commence,” he said.

“The thoughts of the Australian government are very much with alleged victims and hopefully this positive development will give them some confidence that proceedings in Israel are moving towards their aim of seeing proceedings commence in Australia within the Australian justice system.”

Federal Wentworth MP Dave Sharma, who has been campaigning for Leifer’s extradition since his time as Australian ambassador to Israel, told The AJN, “I welcome this decision, which is the result of a long and tireless campaign by many.

“Justice will now be served in the Leifer case, to the immense relief of victims and in furtherance of the satisfaction of justice.”

Macnamara MP Josh Burns told The AJN, “Judge Lomp has declared what we knew all along – that Malka Leifer is fit to face extradition.

“Justice is finally arriving for the victims in Australia.

“Well done to three outstanding and inspiring women – Dassi, Nicole and Elly who have fought through this roller-coaster. We will all keep fighting until Leifer is in a Victorian courtroom facing justice.”

Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler told The AJN, “This is a welcome and meaningful step, if much delayed. That said, it is likely that Leifer’s lawyers will appeal this decision, meaning we are still not at a point where the extradition trial can commence. We continue to urge the Israeli judicial system to expedite matters.”

He added, “Leifer has been credibly accused of serious crimes and must face trial. The Australian Jewish community stands shoulder to shoulder with the victims of Leifer’s alleged abuse.”

Leifer – who is wanted in Victoria on 74 charges of child sex abuse, which she allegedly committed while principal of Adass Israel School – was first arrested in Israel in August 2014, but was ruled unfit to face extradition proceedings. 

In February 2018, Leifer was re-arrested by Israeli police after an investigation into whether she had been feigning mental illness to avoid extradition.

A private investigator who tracked Leifer in 2017 said her behaviour and functioning seemed perfectly normal.

“During the investigation, we saw that she was functioning like a normative woman and mother,” private investigator Tzafrir Tzahi said at the time.

“She does the shopping, hosts her children on Shabbat, goes to the grocery store, goes to the post office, speaks a lot on the cell phone, laughs, converses with people – nothing that could indicate a problem with her daily functioning,” he continued.

In 2019, the case suffered a major setback when it was revealed Israel’s then-deputy health minister Yaakov Litzman was suspected of interfering in the judicial process by allegedly pressuring psychiatrists to declare Leifer mentally unfit to stand trial.

Israeli police have recommended Litzman – who stood down from the Health Ministry in April this year – be indicted on charges of fraud and breach of trust.

In February, during Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s historic visit to Australia, Rivlin vowed to personally intervene in the Leifer case if no progress was made.

A motion was also carried in federal Parliament urging Israeli authorities to bring Leifer home.

By Evan Zlatkis