Leifer to remain in prison until Supreme Court ruling on house arrest appeal

The court is expected to make a decision in the coming days.

Yehuda Fried (C), lawyer of Malka Leifer, speaks to a state prosecutor (L) after a court session at the Jerusalem District Court (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
Yehuda Fried (C), lawyer of Malka Leifer, speaks to a state prosecutor (L) after a court session at the Jerusalem District Court
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
In a signal of a potential diplomatic rift between Jerusalem and Canberra, Australian Ambassador to Israel Chris Cannan spoke out on Thursday against the Jerusalem District Court’s decision to release alleged sex offender Malka Leifer to house arrest.
“Australia maintains its consistent position that Malka Leifer should be extradited to face allegations of child sex abuse in Australian courts,” Cannan tweeted on Thursday. “Yesterday’s decision to grant bail is concerning. We will continue to put our concerns directly to the Government of Israel.”
The Supreme Court temporarily overruled the District Court on Thursday, ordering Leifer to remain in prison until it rules on an appeal against her release to house arrest at her sister’s residence in Bnei Brak.
During the course of the hearing, Supreme Court Judge Anat Baron notably asked Leifer’s lawyers what had changed since the court in February 2018 ordered that Leifer remain in prison until the end of legal proceedings against her.
The judge also pointed out that Leifer is a flight risk, having initially fled Australia in 2008 after allegations of sexual abuse were raised against her.
The court is expected to make a decision in the coming days.
Leifer is standing trial for extradition on 74 counts of child sexual abuse against sisters Dassi Erlich, Ellie Sapper and Nicole Meyer, during her time as principal of the Adass Israel girls’ school in Melbourne. For many years she has claimed to be mentally unfit for extradition.
It is thought that there are numerous other victims as well, but only the three sisters have so far submitted complaints against Leifer.
Following a decision last month in the Jerusalem District Court by Judge Chana Miriam Lomp to appoint a new panel of psychiatric experts to evaluate Leifer’s mental fitness, Leifer’s lawyers appealed for her to be released from prison to house arrest.
Judge Ram Vinograd, also of the Jerusalem District Court, acquiesced to that request on Wednesday to the dismay of Leifer’s alleged victims, and the activist groups who have sought to expedite the painfully long legal proceedings to merely bring Leifer to extradition trial.
Vinograd based his decision on that of Lomp to establish a new expert panel to review Leifer’s psychological status.
Lomp wrote in her decision that the various contradictory medical opinions that have been submitted regarding Leifer’s mental state required that a new expert panel be appointed to make a new, authoritative decision.
Following Leifer’s rearrest in 2018, an expert panel determined that Leifer had been feigning mental illness to previous expert panels so as to avoid extradition hearings to send her back to Australia to stand trial.
Lomp said that the 2018 decision ignored the previous medical determinations that she was not fit to stand trial, and that “a significant portion of the facts presented were faulty.”
The judge also wrote that the determination by the panel in 2018 was not commensurate with Leifer taking anti-psychotic drugs in jail that can have potentially serious side effects.
Lomp acknowledged that the district psychiatric committee dealing with Leifer’s case determined in June this year that Leifer is not “in a situation of active illness,” and that her behavior was “manipulative,” but wrote that his opinion was not based on investigations by psychiatric experts who had examined Leifer.
It was on this basis that Vinograd decided to release Leifer to house arrest on Wednesday, which led the state prosecutor to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The Jerusalem District Court is due to convene on Sunday to determine who will be on the new panel of experts to evaluate Leifer’s condition.
Their determination is expected to be made by December 10.
Although Leifer fled Australia to come to Israel in 2008, legal proceedings against her only began in 2014. Following a private investigation into her behavior conducted on behalf of the organization Jewish Community Watch, the police began its own investigation and arrested her in 2018 on suspicion of feigning mental illness to avoid extradition.