A former Melbourne school principal facing 74 charges of child sexual abuse is fit to be extradited to Australia, a court in Israel has ruled.
Malka Leifer has been fighting an extradition request lodged by Victoria Police for years, stalling the pursuit of justice for her alleged victims.
Leifer fled Australia in 2008 when the accusations emerged in 2008 and didn’t return. An extradition request was made by Victorian Police in 2014. Leifer has maintained her innocence.
She is accused of dozens of counts of sexual assault and rape of students at the ultra-Orthodox Adass Israel school in Melbourne, where she was principal.
In 2017, an Israeli court declared Leifer was unfit to stand trial due to mental illness, but she was arrested again in 2018.
A sting operation found that she had been living a normal and healthy life, with hidden camera footage showing her going about her business with ease.
Late last year, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews appealed directly to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying Leifer must be extradited to Australia.
“This latest decision defies explanation,” Mr Andrews wrote when it looked like she might be bailed, despite being described as a flight risk.
“I am hopeful that in writing to you, the Israeli justice system can move quickly to right this wrong. Victims and their families deserve nothing less.”
The case has met countless delays in Israel and even attracted alleged political interference.
In five years of court hearings, 30 psychiatrists have already been involved in determining that Leifer is fit to face extradition trial.
The continual delays in court, and the findings that Israel’s Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman acted to have medical assessments altered in Leifer’s favour, has raised question marks around Israel’s judiciary.
In August, Israeli police recommended Litzman be indicted on charges of fraud and breach of trust, though Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit is continuing to allow the deputy minister to keep his job.
Judge Miriam Lomp made the extradition ruling in the Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday night.