Malka Leifer, a former Australian school principal who is wanted in Australia on suspicion of sexually abusing students, walks in the corridor of the Jerusalem District Court accompanied by Israeli Prison Service guards, in Jerusalem February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Australian suspected child sex abuser Malka Leifer will be released to house arrest, the Jerusalem District Court decided on Wednesday, after Migdal Ha’emek Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Dovid Grossman testified on her behalf.
The judge set bail at NIS 100,000 and ruled that Leifer may be released on Friday morning to her home where she will be under round-theclock supervision by two supervisors, as well as “spiritual supervision” by Grossman.
Leifer is accused of 74 charges of sexual abuse against at least eight pupils, who were minors at the time, at the Adass Israel School in Melbourne where she served as a teacher and principal from 2003 to 2008.
Grossman argued that Leifer was not in a condition to be held in jail and vowed that if she left the house for even a minute, he would inform the police immediately.
Police arrested Leifer last month in the West Bank settlement Emmanuel, where she lives, after an undercover investigation indicated that she had been feigning mental illness
to avoid extradition to Australia.
Last week, the court ruled that Leifer would remain in custody in a psychiatric hospital until the district psychiatrist could provide a signed assessment on her state, an instruction that has still not been completed.
Dassi Erlich, a sexual abuse survivor and activist, campaigning on behalf of Leifer’s alleged victims, who include Erlich, released a statement calling the ruling “an outrageous travesty of justice.”
“An official sign-off on the psychiatrists report was requested three times by the court. The report remains unsigned. What is the reason for this absolute failure of procedure?” Erlich asked.
She also protested the part taken by Grossman, who has not previously been known to be involved in the case.
“The well-known and ‘highly respected’ Rabbi Grossman walks into court and claims responsibility for Leifer’s well-being, arguing ‘humiliation’ as justification for her freedom. Then to our shock and horror, the judge accepts this. What parallel dimension are we working on here? A judicial system that shows more concern for the humiliation of the defendant over the humiliation of its victims?” she wrote.
Manny Waks, an Australian-Israeli activist working to prevent childhood sexual abuse in Jewish communities worldwide, also slammed the decision.
“It’s outrageous that Leifer has been allowed to continue her charade.
It seems, once again, that Leifer’s interests have been placed well ahead of her alleged victims. And for a leading and respected Israeli rabbi to defend her in the manner in which Rabbi Grossman has done, brings the entire rabbinate to a new low. Where were the alleged victims’ voices? My heart goes out to them,” he said.
Waks charged that Grossman “has a track record of supporting accused child abusers,” pointing to his efforts to secure the release of Breslov Rabbi Eliezer Berland, who was convicted of sex offenses in 2016.
Leifer fled to Israel in 2008 to avoid criminal proceedings, and extradition proceedings only began in 2014.
She has managed to avoid extradition by claiming mental illness – claims, that until now have been upheld by a medical review panel dealing with her case.