The 'Malka Leifer' cloud over Rivlin's Australia visit

Members of the haredi community helped Leifer flee Australia in 2008, and have since helped her fight extradition on the grounds that she was mentally unfit.

Malka Leifer
The Malka Leifer saga has cast a dark cloud over President Reuven Rivlin’s current visit to Australia. For 12 years, Israel has refused to extradite the former principal of Melbourne’s ultra-Orthodox Adass Israel girls’ school to Australia, to face 74 sexual abuse charges against three school girls between 2003 to 2008.
Ahead of Rivlin’s visit to Australia, the three victims – sisters Nicole Meyer, Dassi Erlich and Elly Sapper – wrote a letter to the president, urging him to meet with them, saying, “We did not wish to ask you to interfere with the judicial process, only that you use your authority to ensure this case ends in a timely manner.”
Activist Manny Waks, who was himself a victim of sexual abuse in Australia and briefed Rivlin’s legal adviser, said: “In recent years, the prolonged Leifer case has been the only source of tension between close allies Israel and Australia, and this trip was a unique and timely opportunity for President Rivlin to take some much-needed positive steps in addressing this ongoing injustice.”
Harel Tubi, the director-general of the President’s Office, wrote to Israel’s Ambassador to Australia Mark Sofer telling him that the president “takes the matter of Malka Leifer’s extradition very seriously.” The letter noted that Rivlin had received “a comprehensive briefing from the relevant authorities on the case of Malka Leifer and was informed that the legal proceedings regarding her deportation are proceeding as planned.”
Tubi added that, “the president has full confidence that the State of Israel does not allow those who have committed a crime to use the state and its institutions as a barrier to facing justice according to law,” and ended his letter with the hope that, “the proceedings will come to an end at the earliest possible opportunity.”
In an interview with The Australian Jewish News, Rivlin said everything possible was being done to expedite the proceedings.
“I understand how painful and difficult the case of Malka Leifer is for the Australian Jewish community and for Australians generally,” he said. “The professional opinion of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Justice Ministry and the State Prosecutor’s Office is that the extradition should be carried out as soon as possible and they are doing everything possible to expedite it. I am confident that Israel does not allow those who have committed crimes to avoid justice.”
MK Elazar Stern (Blue and White), on the other hand, told The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald that Israel’s handling of the case has harmed its relationship with Australia. Stern said he was appalled that haredi politicians in the Knesset continue to oppose Leifer’s extradition.
“I don’t think any Israeli should defend any Jewish person if they are a criminal just because they are Jewish,” Stern said. “I don’t think [the view of] a rabbi should have anything to do with national policy or international law.”
Leifer’s cause is being championed by Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman, leader of the Agudat Yisrael faction in United Torah Judaism. He has refused to back down, even after police recommended last August that he be indicted for using his office to illicitly provide assistance to an alleged serial sex abuser.
Members of the haredi community helped Leifer flee Australia in 2008, and have since helped her fight extradition on the grounds that she was mentally unfit. After 63 court hearings over the years, a judicial panel finally determined that she was fit to stand trial for extradition, but the decision was recently delayed yet again by the Jerusalem District Court.
“Bizarrely, the judge authorized Leifer’s defense team to bring two of their own psychiatrists to give their opinion on the opinion of the psychiatric panel,” Waks told i24News, adding that the three sisters, “who have been fighting this courageous battle, want one thing: to see justice. And they have not been given this opportunity, due to incompetence, negligence or even criminal behavior.”
We urge Rivlin, while he is in Australia, to meet the sisters who were Leifer’s victims, support Leifer’s extradition and stand clearly on the right side of justice.