The alleged victims of an Israeli teacher accused of sexually abusing girls at a Melbourne school said they were distressed and angry about further delays to her extradition case.
- Legal arguments about Ms Leifer’s mental competency will continue until mid-March
- Extradition proceedings began in 2014 but were suspended
- There are questions about psychiatric assessments that found Ms Leifer unfit to stand trial
The Jerusalem District Court has granted lawyers for the former principal of the Adass Israel girls school, Malka Leifer, time to cross-examine members of a psychiatric panel that found the 54-year-old had been faking mental illness to avoid extradition.
The panel is meant to be the final assessment of Ms Leifer’s mental fitness after more than 30 previous examinations, many of which found her mentally competent to face trial.
Israel’s State Attorney’s Office had seized on its findings to press for a speedier resolution to the extradition hearing, so Ms Leifer could be sent to Australia to face 74 sexual abuse charges.
“The psychiatric panel’s findings lead to the inevitable conclusion that over the past five years, the court and the mental health system have fallen victim to a fraud perpetrated by Leifer and her supporters,” it said in a press release before the court hearing.
But rather than proceeding to the extradition hearing, legal argument about Ms Leifer’s mental competency will continue until at least mid-March.
“It is so, so upsetting to have a judge who does not just stand up and say, ‘I asked for a panel, I received an answer, this is what is going to happen next, thank you very much’,” alleged victim Nicole Meyer said.
“Instead we have to sit through another traumatising and draining court hearing.”
The Melbourne woman claims she and two of her sisters, Dassi Erlich and Elly Sapper, were sexually abused by their high school principal, Ms Leifer.
“I don’t know how I’m going to sleep tonight, I’m just too upset and exhausted,” Ms Meyer said.
There will be at least two more days of cross-examination before the court rules on Ms Leifer’s mental fitness and potentially proceeds to an extradition hearing.
“We had requested that the court expedite these proceedings against Malka Leifer and the court was open to that,” lawyer Avital Ribner Oron, from Israel’s State Attorney’s Office, told the ABC.
“We are optimistic that we will have a decision regarding this issue very soon.”
Extradition proceedings against Ms Leifer began in 2014 but were suspended two years later when her lawyers successfully argued she was too mentally ill to face trial.
But she was taken into custody in February 2018 when a hidden camera investigation by sexual abuse watchdog Jewish Community Watch, subsequently corroborated by Israeli Police, revealed her living a normal life of shopping, socialising and commuting, in contrast to her lawyers’ claims she was catatonic and crippled by mental illness.
There’s also questions about the psychiatric assessments which found Ms Leifer was unfit to face trial.
Israel Police have recommended the country’s Deputy Health Minister, Yaakov Litzman, who is from the same Jewish ultra-orthodox sect as Ms Leifer, be indicted for pressuring state psychiatrists to change their assessments of her mental state to prevent her extradition.