A former principal of an orthodox Australian school fled to Israel overnight after she was accused of sexually assaulting multiple girls. Now, it seems like she will be able to walk scot-free.
Malka Leifer is wanted by Victoria police department on 74 charges of sexual assault and rape of girls from Adass Israel School in Elsternwick. After the accusations emerged in 2008, Leifer left Melbourne with her family, allegedly with the aid of senior officials in Melbourne’s secretive Adass community.
While in Israel, she managed to evade 10 extradition proceedings as her lawyers argued on her behalf that she was unwell and suffered “panic attacks” when summoned to court.
On Thursday, a long overdue report stated Leifer was unwell. Consequently, the Jerusalem District Court Judge Amnon Cohen ruled her mentally unfit, lifted her home detention ban and ordered she undergo psychiatric aid that can go on for years.
If, in six months, Leifer shows signs of improvement, she will be reassessed to stand trial. But if the committee finds she is unfit to come to court, she may be able to evade her extradition trial indefinitely.
Bring the animal back #MalkaLeifer— B (@BreanaTee) June 3, 2016
Australian principal accused of 74 child sex charges walks free in Israel.
Solicitor Nick Mazzeo, who is standing for the abused victims, said the 74 girls were distraught by the news.
"The decision has further exacerbated the trauma these victims have gone through and are still going through," said Mazzeo. “I am hopeful that there will be an appeal of the decision, if the prosecutor believes that that is possible.”
Michelle Meyer, the chief executive of Jewish victims support group Tzedek, claims Leifer is doing everything to avoid extradition and has “manipulated the system.”
"She has been well enough all this time to continue living, raising her family and possibly working. That doesn't suggest to me that she is unable to be extradited," said Meyer.
Manny Waks, who is a leader at an organization aiming to prevent sexual abuse in Jewish communities, says many of the victims live in Israel and are “fearful of bumping into [Leifer] on the streets.”
"At the end of the Second World War, people like Eichmann were extradited to Israel to face trials for their crimes,” said an unnamed victim of another sexual abuse incident in the ISreali community. “Yet Israel is standing in the way of the extradition of a person who is wanted under the most serious of charges. I find this hypocritical at the highest level."
Shana Aaronson, a representative at the Jewish Community Watch, was shocked by the court’s decision.
"Disappointed isn't really a strong enough word. For the [alleged] victims in Australia this has dragged on and on for them and it's horrible," Aaronson said.