Malka Leifer: Rape-accused ex-principal fit for extradition to Australia

Australian Malka Leifer right is brought to a courtroom in Jerusalem. An Israeli psychiatric panel has determi

Leifer, a former Ultra-Orthodox girls' school principal, is facing 74 charges in Australia of child sexual abuse. In 2008, as allegations surfaced, the Israeli-born Leifer - a trusted educator in an insular religious community - left her position at the school suddenly and returned to Israel, where she has lived since.

In a statement, the global division of the state prosecutor's office, which favours Leifer's extradition, said " the way has now been opened for focused, swift and effective deliberations" about her return to Australia.

The Jerusalem District Court, which had ordered a series of psychiatric examinations, said Leifer was "faking" mental disability and was fit to stand trial, accepting the position of the prosecution.

In her 40-page ruling Tuesday, Lomp noted that while Leifer had "mental problems", as the panel of experts confirmed, "they were not psychotic problems of mental illness as in its legal definition".

Australia attempted to extradite her between 2014 and 2016, but the attempt failed after Ms Leifer was found mentally unfit for trial.

Malka Leifer's accusers Elly Sapper, Dassi Erlich and Nicole Meyer (rear) sit in court behind the former principal (front), March 6, 2019.

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The continual delays in court, and the findings that Israel's Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman acted to have medical assessments altered in Leifer's favour, has raised question marks around Israel's judiciary.

"The court decision that Malka Leifer is fit to stand trial is truly wonderful". "Too many emotions to process!" Leifer was again arrested in early 2018 and the court asked for another psychological review.

Leifer's case is being followed by thousands in both Israel and overseas, and had been heard in closed court, the defence team giving a closing statement in early April. "Because the Addas school sent her on a plane to Israel, they need to be held to account".

"At this time, the thoughts of the Australian Government are very much with alleged victims and hopefully this positive development will give them some confidence that proceedings in Israel are moving towards their aim of seeing proceedings commence in Australia within the Australian justice system".

Josh Burns, an Australian lawmaker who recently introduced a motion in Parliament demanding Israel extradite Leifer, said in a statement that "Justice is finally arriving for the victims in Australia". "I have been convinced that the respondent understands the charges she will face in Australia and also understands the nature of the extradition process", the judge wrote.

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