Demonstration against Malka Leifer outside the Jerusalem District Court.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A private investigator who tracked alleged sex-offender Malka Leifer has said that during the two weeks he and his associates followed her, they did not witness anything that would indicate she does not function like a normal person.
Leifer is standing trial for extradition on 74 counts of sexual abuse in Australia against sisters Dassi Erlich, Ellie Sapper and Nicole Meyer, but has for many years claimed to be mentally unfit to be extradited.
The 51st hearing in the case to determine whether she is indeed fit to stand extradition trial was scheduled for Sunday morning at the Jerusalem District Court, but the defense and prosecution teams agreed that the private investigators and other witnesses slated to give evidence could do so by written submission without cross-examination.
A new hearing was scheduled for Wednesday this week.
Only once these proceedings are completed can the extradition process itself begin, if indeed the judge rules she is fit to stand trial for that.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post
, one of the witnesses, private investigator Tzafrir Tzahi – who carried out a private investigation of Leifer in 2017 – said that his team had observed her for two weeks and that her behavior and functioning seemed perfectly normal.
“During the investigation, we saw that she was functioning like a normative woman and mother,” said Tzahi.
“She does the shopping, hosts her children on Shabbat, goes to the grocery store, goes to the post office, speaks a lot on the cell phone, laughs, converses with people – nothing that could indicate a problem with her daily functioning,” he continued, adding that they had also witnessed her writing checks and paying bills.
Tzahi noted that Leifer does not work, but that she occasionally goes to Bnei Brak, alone by public transport, for various arrangements and also to meet with one of her children.
He also stated that during the entire two weeks his team had tracked her, they had not seen her husband once.
Attorney Yehudah Fried, who is representing Leifer, told the Post
in response that Leifer’s mental health problems do not prevent her from basic functioning such as shopping, traveling and other such activities, but that stressful situations can lead to an eruption of her symptoms which severely debilitate her.
He added that prison officials who have observed Leifer, who has been incarcerated since February 2018, have stated that her mental health has been deficient during her time in prison.
Manny Waks, founder and director of the Kol V’Oz campaign group, said that the long length of the legal proceedings against Leifer in which extradition hearings themselves are yet to begin has “made a farce of the Israeli system in the eyes of many around the world.”
Leifer fled Australia to come to Israel in 2008, but legal proceedings against her only began in 2014. Following the private investigation into her conducted on behalf of the Jewish Community Watch organization, the police began its own investigation, arresting Leifer in 2018 on suspicion of feigning mental illness to avoid extradition.
“This ongoing saga needs to be wrapped up as soon as possible. It is continuing to raise questions regarding Israel’s judicial process, and is detrimentally impacting Israel’s international reputation. Of course, due process must be followed – but Leifer and her supporters must also not be allowed to have undue influence and to dictate terms,” said Waks.
He added that the police are currently investigating alleged interference in the legal proceedings against Leifer by Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, who is now under police investigation himself for allegedly threatening to fire Health Ministry officials if they did not produce a psychiatric evaluation declaring Leifer to be unfit for extradition.
Litzman has denied any wrongdoing.
“Due process is critical, but we need to ensure that justice is happening and that there aren’t any external parties impacting the case – as we have seen in the past,” Waks said.
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