An Israeli court has said Malka Leifer, a Melbourne school principal accused of paedophilia is fit to be extradited to Australia. "I decided to accept the expert panel's opinion. She's fit to stand trial", said Judge Chana Miriam Lomp. Local media reported that the woman's lawyers are likely to appeal the verdict, which may delay the extradition process.
The former principal of the Adass religious school for girls in Australia, is facing 74 charges, including the indecent assault of minors and rape. Her accusers, three young women, claim they were abused by Leifer between 2001 and 2008. The women say they were unaware that they were molested until they grew up.
After allegations against her surfaced in 2008, Leifer, who has dual Israeli-Australian citizenship, fled with her children and family to Israel. In 2014, Australia sent an extradition request, but it had no success as Leifer and her lawyers claimed that she is crippled by depression and suffers from panic attacks and hence is unfit to stand trial. At the time, the Israeli court sided with the woman and Australia's extradition request was suspended. The court also allowed her to go free lifting her house arrest.
Back then the court's decision caused outrage in Australia and prompted widespread criticism of Israel's justice system and even the country's high-ranking officials. Former Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman was accused of pressuring doctors to falsify medical examinations in order to make Leifer unfit, a claim Litzman categorically denies.
In 2018, Liefer was arrested after a video made by a private investigator showed the former principal leading a normal, healthy life. She was examined more than 30 times by medical experts and in January a psychiatric board concluded that not only was Leifer mentally well, but that she deliberately feigned her illness to avoid extradition.
"It is absolutely incredible that it's taken so many years to get to where we are today, and finally we are here. Sure, Malka Leifer is not yet on the plane, and there is some way to go. But what we can see now is that she is fit to face justice", Manny Waks, the founder of Kol V’Oz, an Israel-based organisation against child sexual abuse told reporters outside the court