Melbourne school principal Malka Leifer re-arrested in Israel over sex abuse charges

By @chelean on
A closeup of the lock of a brick jail cell with iron bars and a key Reuters/File

Former Melbourne school principal Malka Leifer has been re-arrested in Israel after allegedly faking mental illness to avoid extradition to Australia. The Israeli citizen is wanted in Victoria on 74 rape and child sexual abuse charges.

Leifer fled Australia to her native Israel in 2008 after multiple female students from the ultra-Orthodox Adass Israel school accused her of sexually abusing them. She was arrested in 2014 after Australia filed an extradition request for her. However, she avoided extradition after court-appointed psychiatrists in Israel claimed she was too mentally ill to attend the hearing.

She had not been admitted to ongoing care and had only been told to surrender her passport and undergo psychiatric review every six months for 10 years. Each review she has since undergone advised that she was mentally incapable of appearing in court.

She was photographed last year attending the religious festival Lag B’Omer in the northern town of Meron. After launching a probe spurred by complaints from her alleged victims, police concluded that she faked mental illness and obstructed court proceedings.

Israeli Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed that Leifer was arrested on Tuesday morning. Her extradition process has also begun anew.

“During 2017, there were indications that the suspect was pretending to be suffering from a mental illness in order to avoid the extradition process, and as a result, the police opened again an investigation that led to her arrest this morning,” a statement from the police said.

The statement added that Leifer would be brought before the Petah Tikvah Magistrate’s Court to extend her detention. Her extradition case would also be re-examined, an Israeli official told i24NEWS. She has been ordered to attend court on Wednesday. A judge will then decide whether to order her re-arrest on Australian charges and re-commence the extradition process.

One of her alleged victims, Dassi Elrich, said that her extradition process is good news. “Knowing that she is in custody is a huge relief for us because we know that she is no longer, at this moment, able to harm anyone, and we hope it stays that way,” she told SBS.

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