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-offender Malka Leifer will remain in prison until a decision is reached on a petition for her extradition to Australia, the Supreme Court ruled on Sunday.
The judge said the decision was made “in view of the substantial fear of her fleeing to escape the law, and repeated breach of trust by the respondent.”
The case was taken to the Supreme Court in appeal of a decision by the Jerusalem District Court earlier this month to release Leifer to house arrest
, a ruling which sparked uproar among activists and sex-abuse victims.
The court made the decision after Migdal Ha’emek Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Dovid Grossman offered to supervise and assist Leifer, who claims she suffers from mental illness, arguing that she was unfit to remain in custody. He retracted his offer several days later after realizing that his assistance had been interpreted as support of an attempt to avoid trial.
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.
Police arrested Leifer last month in the West Bank settlement of Emmanuel where she lives, after an undercover investigation indicated that she had been feigning mental illness to avoid extradition to Australia.
“It seems that justice has prevailed and sanity has been restored to both Malka Leifer and the Israeli judicial system,” said Manny Waks, an Australian-Israeli activist working to prevent childhood sexual abuse in Jewish communities worldwide. “Now that she is incarcerated, hopefully the extradition process will be swift, and we can finally see Leifer face justice in Australia.
Today is a great day for many people, not least Leifer’s courageous alleged victims.”
Dassi Erlich, a sexual-abuse survivor and activist, campaigning on behalf of Leifer’s alleged victims – herself included – said in a statement: “The Supreme Court’s ruling to keep Malka Leifer detained until the conclusion of extradition, is a positive step forward. It addresses the concern of many that she is a flight risk and a possible danger to others.”
She added that: “This ruling will also hopefully limit the stalling tactics of the defense because their client is now sitting in prison awaiting a decision for extradition. We feel strengthened and encouraged by this successful appeal and await the next step in this lengthy road towards justice.”