Israeli court backs extradition in Australia child sex case

Israels Supreme Court has rejected an appeal challenging the extradition of a former teacher wanted in Australia on charges of child sex abuse, clearing the way for her to stand trial after a six-year legal saga.

Malka Leifer, a former educator accused of sexually abusing several former students at a Jewish school in Melbourne, has been fighting extradition from Israel since 2014. Leifer maintains her innocence and the six-year legal battle surrounding her extradition has strained relations between Israel and Australia.

The Supreme Court justices said on Tuesday that the ruling finalizes “the decision of the appellant as extraditable” to stand trial in Australia.

The Justice Ministry said in a statement that the ruling “brings us one significant step closer to Malka Leifers extradition to Australia” and that the ministry “will continue to make every effort to expedite Malka Leifers extradition to Australia so that she may stand trial for the crimes she is accused of committing”. Israeli Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn praised the courts decision and said he would be signing the extradition order immediately.

“After long and tormenting years, the time has come to do justice with Leifers victims,” he wrote on Twitter.

Critics, including Leifers alleged victims, have accused Israeli authorities of dragging out the legal process for far too long.

In September, a Jerusalem court approved Leifers extradition to Australia after the countrys highest court had upheld a ruling that she was mentally fit to stand trial.

Earlier this year an Israeli psychiatric panel determined that Leifer lied about suffering a mental condition that allegedly made her unfit to stand trial. As a result of the findings, Israels Justice Ministry said it would move to expedite her extradition to face 74 charges of child sex abuse.

Three sisters Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper have accused Leifer of abusing them while they were students at a Melbourne ultra-Orthodox school. There are said to be other victims.

“We have a very long journey ahead of us, a journey that truthfully should have begun nine years ago,” Meyer said. “If I could give a message to all survivors, its reach out, find support, share your story and lets get these abusers off the street.” The Associated Press does not usually identify alleged victims of sexual abuse, but the sisters have spoken publicly about their allegations against Leifer.

Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter welcomed the court decision and Nissenkorns commitment to extradite Leifer.

“The allegations against Ms. Leifer are very serious and the Australian government remains strongly committed to ensuring that justice is served in this case, so that Ms. Leifer is extradited to Australia in order to stand trial on the 74 counts of child sexual abuse against her,” Porters said in a statement Porter said he traveled to Israel last year to make his case to the Israeli government.

“Although this latest development is a significant step forward – possibly the most positive steps thus far in what has been a long process – there are still steps to be undertaken in Israel,” Porter said.

As accusations began surfacing in 2008, Israeli-born Leifer left the school and returned to Israel, where she has lived since.

Her attorney, Nick Kaufman, appeared to acknowledge his client has exhausted her legal options in fighting the extradition but expressed hope that, should she be convicted, she might be able to serve her prison sentence in Israel.

Kaufman said the court noted Leifers “unique nature of her religious way of life” as an ultra-Orthodox Jew and acknowledged it would “present considerable difficulties for her in an Australian prison.” “Should Malka Leifer be convicted and sentenced to a custodial sentence, we hope that the relevant authorities will accede to a future request that she serve such a sentence in Israel,” he said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)