Court orders another assessment in Malka Leifer case

New extradition process looks set to drag on for a year in a controversial case of former principal facing 74 charges of sex abuse.

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February 19, 2019 00:59
2 minute read.
Manny Waks of Kol v’Oz speaks to the press at the Jerusalem District court Monday

Manny Waks of Kol v’Oz speaks to the press at the Jerusalem District court Monday. (photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)

 
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The Jerusalem District Court heard arguments in the case of suspected child molester Malka Leifer on Monday, ordering another psychiatric assessment and denying her bail in a case that has dragged out since 2012 when Australia officially filed an extradition request to face 74 charges of child sexual abuse.

In a related development, Deputy Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman has been placed under investigation on suspicion of obstructing Leifer’s extradition.

Police confirmed that Litzman was questioned by the fraud investigation unit on  Thursday over suspected ethics violations without elaborating on the nature of the charges. However, Israeli media reported that he had attempted to falsify psychiatric evaluations that would deem the former principal of Adass Israel School in Melbourne unfit to face trial in Australia.

The courtroom, located on Salah al-Din Street in east Jerusalem, was packed for the hearing. District court justice Ram Winograd ordered that Leifer be kept in detention and for another psychiatric assessment to be made. Extradition hearings continue next month in the case. Leifer’s attorneys Yehuda Fried and Tal Gabbay argued that their client was facing life-long damage from being kept in prison. She was imprisoned after being arrested in February 2018, accused of feigning illness to avoid extradition.

Leifer flew to Australia in 2008. Initially ruled mentally unfit to stand trial, the latest attempt to extradite her has dragged on for a year. She was deemed fit to face an extradition hearing last August.


Manny Waks, CEO of Kol v’Oz, which campaigns for victims of sexual abuse, said he was pleased with the outcome of the court ruling not to free Leifer on bail. “We hope this is the continuation of the wheels of justice, albeit slowly, going forward. In that perspective, the Litzman case has suggested there have been a lot of anomalies in this case,” he said.

The defense indicated they might appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. It is the latest twist in a case of growing concern in Israel, particularly because of the accusations involving Litzman. The case has also led to criticism of religious figures who have stepped forward, either in support of Leifer or to agree to support her being moved to house arrest.

At Monday’s hearing, another rabbi appeared. Dassi Erlich and Nicole Meyer, two sisters who allege they were victims of Leifer, said through Skype that they were disappointed that the rabbi, whose name they gave as Mendel Shafran, was present.

Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman contributed to this report.

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