(photo credit: INIMAGE)
Jerusalem District Judge Amnon Cohen on Sunday ordered that an ultra-Orthodox woman at the center of an Australian sexual abuse scandal must undergo psychiatric evaluation to determine if she is fit to be extradited, ABC News Australia reported.
Malka Leifer, a dual Israeli- Australian national, fled to Israel in 2008 after she was accused of engaging in sexual behavior with eight students at the Adass Israel School in Melbourne’s Elsternwick suburb, where she was the principal.
She was taken into custody in 2014 and sentenced to house arrest pending extradition but has managed to fend off any further action, exhibiting panic attacks prior to many hearings and claiming that she is “mentally unfit” to take part in the judicial proceedings.
Late last year Australian media reported that Adass Israel may face a criminal investigation due to the role that its board members played in spiriting Leifer out of the country. In September, a local court found the school liable in a civil suit, ordering it to pay more than $1 million to one of the victims.
In his ruling on Sunday, Cohen called for the accused to undergo further mental examinations.
“This seems to be a big game. A strategy on her behalf. We don’t need to be Einsteins to work out what is happening here,” former Australian ultra-Orthodox sexual abuse victim and survivors’ advocate Manny Waks told ABC outside the court on Sunday. “She is facing 74 charges of child sex abuse in Australia. That is stressful for anyone. We need to focus much more on the emotional distress of her many alleged victims. Their suffering is immense.”
During Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse last year, it emerged that several local community leaders suppressed information relating to child molestation, leading to a split within the country’s rabbinate and calls for reforming local schools’ procedures for dealing with allegations of abuse.
During the course of the commission, rabbis affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch hassidic movement testified, causing shock waves throughout the Jewish world.
“A culture of cover-up, often couched in religious terms, pervaded our thinking and our actions,” one senior rabbi told the commission, which heard testimony relating to the social ostracism that victims and their families faced after coming forward.