Send Leifer back

Leifer is on trial for extradition on 74 counts of sexual abuse of children, and specifically against sisters Dassi Erlich, Ellie Sapper and Nicole Meyer.

October 6, 2019 21:32
3 minute read.
Malka Leifer is brought to court last week

Malka Leifer is brought to court last week. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Malka Leifer farce continued last week when the Jerusalem District Court ordered the alleged sex offender released to house arrest.

The Supreme Court temporarily overturned the ruling, ordering Leifer to remain in prison until the court rules on an appeal against the decision to allow her to stay in her sister’s home in Bnei Brak.

The former principal of the Adass Israel girls’ school in Melbourne, Leifer is on trial for extradition on 74 counts of sexual abuse of children, and specifically against sisters Dassi Erlich, Ellie Sapper and Nicole Meyer.

A Kafkaesque back-and-forth has been going on for over five years and nearly 60 hearings on Leifer’s case. She was arrested in Israel in 2014, after fleeing Australia in 2008 to escape justice. Her status as a flight risk is one of the reasons the Supreme Court decided she should stay in prison for now.

Over the years, Leifer has claimed that she is mentally unfit to stand trial, and there have been contradictory assessments from psychiatrists on the matter.

Yet another expert panel was appointed last week – by a different Jerusalem District Court judge than the one who sought to release her to Bnei Brak – to evaluate Leifer’s mental fitness and make a final, authoritative decision by December 10.

What they will discover that is not already known about Leifer is unclear. What is apparent is that this is another example of injustice.
Sadly, the entire Leifer case has been tainted by another police investigation – earlier this year, police recommended that Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman be indicted on charges of fraud and breach of trust because of alleged interference in Leifer’s case.
Specifically, police accused Litzman of pressuring the Jerusalem District psychiatrist to say Leifer was mentally unfit for extradition.
In addition, police say Litzman threatened other medical professionals in the Health Ministry if they did not write reports favorable to Leifer. Litzman is unlikely to intervene in the new panel’s decision, as doing so could put him in further legal trouble.

In the meantime, the wheels of justice have been turning so slowly that relations between Canberra and Jerusalem seem to have hit an all-time low.

After the house arrest ruling – and before the Supreme Court blocked it – Australian Ambassador to Israel Chris Cannan tweeted: “Australia maintains its consistent position that Malka Leifer should be extradited to face allegations of child sex abuse in Australian courts. Yesterday’s decision to grant bail is concerning. We will continue to put our concerns directly to the Government of Israel.”
The diplomatic ramifications, while disconcerting because Australia is such a reliable ally of Israel, are beside the point here.
What is truly outrageous and infuriating is the depth of the injustice in this case.

Israel is supposed to have a world-class legal system, yet one incident after another has eroded the public’s trust in the judiciary. The allegations of Litzman’s intervention, together with the dragging out of a decision about Leifer over the course of five years and no less than 60 hearings, has further undermined the public’s already shaky trust in our courts.

In this case, the courts and the Health Ministry have been nothing short of abusive, adding further trauma to the sisters who already allegedly faced humiliation and debasement at Leifer’s hands when they were defenseless children.

Leifer should be sent back to Australia where she can stand trial.

She should not be allowed to remain in Israel where she can hide. If she believes she is innocent, she should defend herself in court. If she is guilty, then she deserves to be punished to the full extent of the law, for both sexual abuse and her attempts to avoid its consequences.

Leifer’s alleged victims have been crying out for justice for over a decade. They deserve to see this process come to an end.

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