An Israeli policewoman removes handcuffs from Malka Leifer, a former Melbourne  teacher accused of dozens of cases of sexual abuse of girls.
An Israeli policewoman removes handcuffs from Malka Leifer, a former Melbourne teacher accused of dozens of cases of sexual abuse of girls.

Accused sex teacher ‘fit enough to face court’

A NEW psychiatric evaluation has found alleged paedophile schoolteacher Malka Leifer is well enough to face extradition proceedings to see if she should be returned to Australia, a court in Jerusalem has heard.

Prosecutor Matan Akiva told the Jerusalem District Court tonight that a new evaluation had now found that Leifer, 54, was well enough to face extradition proceedings - despite an earlier finding that she was not well enough.

"This court needs to answer one question and one question only - can the respondent be extradited to Australia,'' Mr Akiva said.

"In order to decide on that the court has to rule that in (contrast) to the district's decision before, she is now fit to face the court.

"The court has asked for a new evaluation and Dr Wisebord, on the basis of a serious examination, he says she is fit to face justice. The psychiatric issue is the heart of this matter.''

The former principal of the Adass Israel School in Elsternwick flew to Israel from Melbourne in 2008 after learning students had gone to police to make complaints against her.

She is wanted for questioning on 74 allegations of sexually assaulting her former female students.

Images taken from footage captured by private investigators, who worked with Jewish Community Watch. The footage shows  Malka Leifer living a fully functional and social life.
Images taken from footage captured by private investigators, who worked with Jewish Community Watch. The footage shows Malka Leifer living a fully functional and social life.

However, she has been sheltering in an Orthodox community in the West Bank for a decade, and successfully argued for four years that she was too mentally unwell to face proceedings.

There was a breakthrough in the case in February when Leifer was arrested and charged with faking her mental illness.

The charge was laid after an extraordinary undercover operation by community activists and police who infiltrated the notoriously-closed community of Immanuel, and photographed Leifer going about her daily business, shopping and catching the bus.

She had previously successfully argued that she was so unwell she was virtually housebound and non-communicative.

The court has yet to rule on the domestic criminal proceedings which allege she faked her illness, but is focusing on the extradition application from Australia.

Judge Miryam Lomp decided tonight to adjourn the case again until November 14, saying she saw no reason why it shouldn't go ahead despite the local criminal matter being unresolved.

Malka Leifer flew to Israel from Melbourne in 2008 after learning students had gone to police to make complaints against her.
Malka Leifer flew to Israel from Melbourne in 2008 after learning students had gone to police to make complaints against her.

"If Leifer will be sent to Australia, the impersonation case might close for lack of public interest,'' she said.

"On (November 14) we will hear the experts of the defence and of the prosecution and I will have to decide whether she is fit to face the court or not".

Leifer, who has previously appeared in court shaking violently and with her head down, did not appear last night.

She remains locked up in the Neve Tirza jail, Israel's only women's prison, in Ramle between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Manny Waks, CEO of Kol v’Oz, a Jewish organisation combating child sex abuse, speaks outside court.
Manny Waks, CEO of Kol v’Oz, a Jewish organisation combating child sex abuse, speaks outside court.

Leifer's defence lawyer Yehuda Frid attacked the decision, saying it was a miscarriage of justice to continue with the extradition case without a decision on the criminal impersonation case.

"I will not handle two parallel cases. They need to either close the case or press charges and then we can come back here,'' he said.

"They haven't decided in this case for eight months now. You cannot throw sand in the eyes of the court", he said, in an angry outburst in the court.

Australian Manny Waks, CEO of Kol v'Oz, a Jewish organisation combating child sex abuse, said it has been a "long journey, especially for the victims".

"We now have many more months that we need to wait until the next step is determined and that's simply not acceptable especially for those who are hurting - the victims and the community in Australia."

One of the former students who has lodged complaints against Leifer, Dassi Erlich, said she was thrilled to hear her former teacher was well enough to face trial.

"We knew this all along, now we are wondering how many more assessments do we need to tell us the same thing - she is fit to stand trial.

"This is an absolutely big step towards this conclusion that we are all waiting to see.''



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