Malka Leifer extradition drags on as court orders new mental state review

Decisions will stretch out even further legal proceedings to extradite alleged sex offender which have taken nearly six years

Demonstration against Malka Leifer outside the Jerusalem District Court (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Demonstration against Malka Leifer outside the Jerusalem District Court
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Jerusalem District Court decided Monday that it will appoint an expert panel of psychiatrists to rule on whether or not alleged sex offender Malka Leifer is fit to stand trial for extradition.
Judge Chana Miriam Lomp said that since there has been a considerable amount of conflicting information and testimony on the case, she needed to hear from a new expert panel in order to make a definitive ruling on Leifer’s mental fitness.
A hearing on October 6 in the Jerusalem District Court will determine which psychiatrists will be on the three-member panel. The panel will be expected to issue its opinion by December 10.
Leifer is standing trial for extradition on 74 counts of sexual abuse in Australia against sisters Dassi Erlich, Ellie Sapper and Nicole Meyer while she was principal of an ultra-Orthodox school. She has for many years claimed to be mentally unfit for extradition.
The decision will mean that the legal efforts to extradite Leifer to Australia – which have already taken six years – will drag on even longer, frustrating Leifer’s alleged victims and activists who have waged a concerted campaign for Leifer to stand trial in Australia.
Jewish Community Watch (JCW) stated that it was very disappointed with the judge’s decision to consult with a new expert panel.
“After more than 57 court hearings, the court has pushed off the decision once again and assigned it to yet another group of psychiatrists,” the JCW said. “The real decisions the court has made today is that it wishes to be seen as an international embarrassment instead of a justice system which protects the most vulnerable.”
JCW pledged to continue to support the survivors.
“Their fight for justice is our fight, and we hope the community will rally around them until such time that Leifer is finally extradited back to Australia,” the advocacy group said.
Leifer’s lawyer, Yehuda Fried, spun the decision as being in favor of his client, arguing that “the court has determined that the state has not lifted its burden [of proof] and argued that the ruling meant Leifer would not be extradited.”
Fried also said that he would petition the court to release Leifer from prison, where she has been held since being rearrested in 2018.
Leifer fled Australia to come to Israel in 2008, but legal proceedings against her only began in 2014.
A psychiatric panel ruled at the beginning of the legal proceedings against her that she was fit to stand trial for extradition to Australia. But a private investigation into her situation in 2017 conducted on behalf of the JCW raised serious questions over her supposed psychiatric incapacity to stand trial.
The police subsequently initiated its own investigation and arrested Leifer in 2018 on suspicion of feigning mental illness to avoid extradition.
In May 2017 after a previous hearing in the District Court, private investigator Tzafrir Tzahi, who carried out the investigation of Leifer, 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 cellphone, laughs, converses with people – nothing that could indicate a problem with her daily functioning.”
Tzahi noted that Leifer does not work, but that she occasionally goes to Bnei Brak, alone by public transportation, for various arrangements and also to meet 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.
Fried, who is representing Leifer, told The Jerusalem Post in response that his client’s mental health problems do not prevent her from basic functioning like 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.