MEDIA RELEASE: Developments in Malka Leifer case
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The ongoing significant delay in extraditing accused pedophile, Malka Leifer, from Israel to Australia to face 74 charges involving allegations that she sexually abused at least eight pupils during her time as principal of the Adass Israel school in Melbourne between 2003 and 2008, is causing growing dismay across the Australian Jewish community.
Malka Leifer left Melbourne to return to Israel in 2008 within hours of the allegations against her coming to light, and before a warrant could be issued for her arrest in Australia.
Since her arrest by the authorities in Israel in August 2014 following Australia making a formal request for her extradition, the extradition proceedings have come before the courts in Israel on more than 50 occasions. However, no order for her extradition to Australia has been made, as her lawyers continue to argue that she is unfit to stand trial due to her alleged mental state. Those seeking her extradition have produced evidence suggesting that she has been malingering.
The consternation about the delays in the case have been heightened by the fact that Israel’s Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman was interrogated by Israeli police in February 2019 over allegations that he met with Jerusalem’s district psychiatrist, Dr Jacob Charnes, to pressure him into issuing a false assessment for Leifer in support of her claim that she should not be extradited to Australia because she is mentally unfit to stand trial. Mr Litzman and Ms Leifer are both members of the Gur chasidic sect.
In recent weeks Israeli media have reported on further allegations that Litzman and his ministry intervened on behalf of at least 10 convicted sex offenders, including pressuring psychiatrists in at least one other case. Litzman has denied all wrong-doing.
These allegations of executive interference in the judicial process raise grave questions about the integrity of the handling of the Leifer case in Israel while Mr Litzman remains in any government position. We call upon acting Prime Minister Netanyahu to announce an official inquiry into the allegations, and to confirm that Mr Litzman will not be appointed to any executive office pending the outcome of the inquiry.
Litzman’s political party, United Torah Judaism, which won 8 seats in the recent general election in Israel, may be a coalition partner in Israel’s next government. We maintain that political considerations must have no bearing whatsoever on the Leifer case, and that Israel’s judiciary must operate with complete independence and impartiality. Justice must not only be done but also be seen to be done.
This is not a matter that concerns Israel exclusively. Ms Leifer’s accusers in Australia, the Australian government and citizens of Australia, especially the Jewish community, have a deep and direct interest in the case. We will not rest until Malka Leifer is extradited to Australia and put on trial.
We continue to stand with the survivors who have persevered these long years to bring Malka Leifer to justice. Their dignity in the face of delays in the extradition trial and allegations of impropriety by various officials are to their great credit.