CANBERRA, Australia (AP) By Dr Majid Khan — Malka Leifer, a former principal of an Australian Jewish school, has been accused of pretending to be mentally ill for seven years to avoid extradition on child sex abuse charges, according to a prosecutor’s statement on Thursday.
Leifer fought her extradition from Jerusalem courts from 2014 to 2021 before being flown from Israel to Australia with her ankles and wrists shackled.
Appearing in the Victoria state County Court for the second day of her sentencing hearing, Leifer was previously convicted in April for sexually abusing two students between 2003 and 2007 while serving as the principal of Melbourne’s ultra-Orthodox Adass Israel School for girls.
In addition to the ongoing legal proceedings, here are some other noteworthy news items:
A Palestinian family faces eviction from their Jerusalem home as a lengthy legal battle comes to an end.
The shrinking Armenian community in Jerusalem’s contested Old City expresses concerns over displacement following a land deal. An Israeli woman who was badly injured in a 2001 suicide bombing in Jerusalem has died after being in a coma for 22 years.
Jerusalem’s Tower of David Museum reopens after three years of renovations.
Prosecutor Justin Lewis told Judge Mark Gamble that Leifer’s actions deliberately obstructed and delayed extradition proceedings, and that his time spent in detention and under house arrest in Israel could result in a sentence.
The Jerusalem District Court ruled that Leifer was fit to stand trial and pretended to be mentally ill to avoid extradition, Lewis said. Three Israeli Supreme Court judges unanimously agreed that she could be prosecuted. Several psychiatrists employed by the Jerusalem District Psychiatrist concluded that Leifer did not suffer from mental illness, but rather had faked it to avoid extradition. A panel of experts appointed by the Tel Aviv District Psychiatrist also unanimously declared her mentally fit to stand trial, pretending she was dysfunctional and unable to comprehend her situation. I confirmed that I did.
“Three panels of psychiatrists concluded that the defendant feigned insanity under circumstances in which the insanity is essentially a form of allergy to the trial itself,” said Lewis. Defendant’s conduct prolongs the trial.” It was for that very purpose.
The sentencing hearing has been postponed to a third day, but a date has not yet been set. Gamble said he had not yet considered documents submitted by both sides, including Israeli court records. He was also waiting for an affidavit from Leifer’s lawyer regarding her domestic detention conditions in Israel.
During the legal battle, Leifer spent 608 days in domestic detention and 51 days in Israeli detention. The extradition process strained relations between the Australian and Israeli governments and created tensions within the Australian Jewish community.
A native of Tel Aviv, Leifer came to Australia in 2000 as the school’s religious leader and became principal in 2001. She returned to Israel in 2008 when allegations against her were first raised. Sisters Dassi Ehrlich and Ellie Sapper, who were sexually abused by Leifer, spoke in court on Wednesday about their painful experiences. They commented on the lasting effects abuse had on their ability to trust.
Leifer is currently incarcerated in a high-security women’s prison in Melbourne, and we followed her in a video link. She has been convicted of multiple charges, including rape, child sexual penetration, indecent assault and child molestation, and faces a possible sentence of five to 25 years in prison. There are no minimum penalties for these crimes.