by: ILAN BEN ZION, Associated Press
Posted: Jan 25, 2021 / 2:35 AM ESTUpdated: Jan 25, 2021 / 3:22 AM EST
FILE – This February 27, 2018 file photo of Israel-born Australian Malka Leifer, right, is being taken to a Jerusalem courtroom. The Israeli Supreme Court on Tuesday, December 15, 2020, dismissed an appeal against the extradition of Leifer, a former teacher wanted in Australia for the sexual abuse of several former students from a Jewish school in Melbourne, paving the way for her to After that, standing on trial is a six-year legal saga. Leifer is currently on a plane to Australia, Monday January 25, 2021. (AP Photo / Mahmoud Illean, File)
JERUSALEM (AP) – The Israeli authorities on Monday extradited a former teacher accused of sexually abusing her former students in Australia, ending a six-year legal battle that has strained relations between the two governments and Australia’s Jewish community had upset.
Malka Leifer, wanted on 74 child sexual abuse charges in Australia, was put on a flight early that morning, just hours before Israel was due to close its international airport to almost all air traffic over a raging coronavirus outbreak. The Israeli media photographed Leifer boarding a plane at Ben Gurion Airport. Her ankles and wrists were tied. Her attorney, Nick Kaufman, confirmed the extradition.
Leifer, a former teacher accused of sexually abusing several former students at a Jewish school in Melbourne, has been fighting extradition since 2014. Leifer claims her innocence and the lengthy legal process, and repeated delays in her extradition have also been criticized by Australian officials for the country’s Jewish leaders.
The Hebrew-language news site Ynet reported that Leifer was boarding a flight to Frankfurt, where she was to switch to another flight to Australia.
Three sisters – Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper – have accused Leifer of molesting her while they were students in an ultra-Orthodox school in Melbourne. There should be other victims. The Associated Press does not usually identify alleged sexual abuse victims, but the sisters have spoken publicly about their allegations against Leifer.
“This is an incredible day for justice!” said Manny Waks, director of Voice Against Child Abuse, an organization that represents Laives victims. “We can really look forward to Leifer being tried in Australia on the 74 charges she faces,” he said.
Erlich simply wrote on her Facebook page: “Leifer is on the plane to Australia.”
When allegations against her surfaced in 2008, Israel-born Leifer left school and returned to Israel, where she has lived since then. Critics, including Leifer’s alleged victims, had accused the Israeli authorities of dragging the case out for far too long, while Leifer claimed she was mentally incapable of standing on trial.
Israeli police have also recommended fraud and breach of trust charges against former Health Minister Yaakov Litzman on suspicion of pressuring ministry officials to skew Leifer’s psychiatric assessments in their favor. Litzman, a powerful ultra-Orthodox politician, denies wrongdoing.
Last year, an Israeli psychiatric panel found that Leifer had lied about her mental health and initiated an extradition. In December, the Supreme Court rejected a final appeal against her extradition, and the Israeli Justice Minister signed the order to send her to Australia.
Avi Nissenkorn, Israel’s former justice minister who signed the extradition warrant, wrote on Twitter: “I promised not to obstruct the extradition warrant, and I did. Malka Leifer’s victims will finally deserve an act of justice. ”