An Israeli court has ordered that accused child sex abuser Malka Leifer can be extradited to Australia, the latest ruling in a saga which has dragged on for more than a decade.
The Jerusalem district court ruled on Monday afternoon (Monday morning Israel time) that Leifer can be extradited to Australia, where Victorian police have charged her with 74 offences.
Leifer, 52, is accused of sexually assaulting female students during her time as principal of the ultra-Orthodox Adass Israel school in Melbourne’s south-east.
She left to Israel in 2008 after the allegations were made, and an extradition request was lodged in 2014. Leifer has denied the charges.
Leifer appealed her extradition on the grounds she was mentally unwell, but earlier this month Israel’s supreme court rejected an appeal against the district court decision that she was fit to face trial.
Following the supreme court’s ruling, Leifer’s accusers had believed Judge Chana Miriam Lomp would rule in favour of extradition. Leifer, as Israeli citizen, is expected to seek leave for another supreme court appeal following the decision.
Before she can be sent back to Australia, Israel’s minister of justice must also sign off on the extradition.
There have been more than 70 court hearings related to the case, which has strained diplomatic relations between Israel and Australia.
As well as accusations of interference in the case from a former health minister, Ya’acov Litzman, who comes from the same sect of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, Leifer has been accused of faking mental illness to avoid extradition.
Manny Waks, a victim of child sexual abuse and advocate for other Jewish victims, planned to be in court for Monday’s hearing.
“In my opinion, and as I’ve said for a while, it’s now simply a matter of time before Leifer is put on a plane back to Australia to face justice,” he posted on Facebook on Sunday.
“I’m still hopeful that this will happen by the end of 2020.”