An Israeli court has ruled that former Melbourne school principal Malka Leifer is mentally fit to face trial for extradition back to Australia to face 74 charges of rape and child sexual assault.
Leifer had claimed mental illness in fighting her return to Australia, and the case has dragged on in Israel since 2014.
The ruling in the Jerusalem district court capped a years-long legal battle fought since 2011 by sisters Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapperin the case of Leifer, a former educator who is accused of sexually abusing former students.
“Celebration,” said Manny Waks, an advocate for the victims, wrote on Facebook in a liveblog from the courtroom. “Goosebumps throughout my body.”
“OMG!!!” wrote Dassi Ehrlich, one of Malka’s alleged victims.
The Federal Government has welcomed the ruling, with Attorney-General Christian Porter describing the move as “positive”.
“The allegations against Ms Leifer are very serious and the Australian Government remains strongly committed to ensuring that justice is served in this case,” Mr Porter said in a statement.
“To achieve that, it is appropriate and remains the Government’s strong view that Ms Leifer is ultimately extradited to stand trial in Australia on the 74 counts of child sexual abuse against her.
“”At this time, the thoughts of the Australian Government are very much with alleged victims and hopefully this positive development will give them some confidence that proceedings in Israel are moving towards their aim of seeing proceedings commence in Australia within the Australian justice system.”
Leifer has been fighting extradition from Israel for six years, and the legal wrangle to bring her before an Australian court has caused a diplomatic strain between the allies.
Leifer’s lawyers had challenged the finding by a psychiatric panel that she was fit to stand trial.
Her accusers expect Tuesday’s decision to clear the way for a quick extradition to Australia.
Long time victim supporter, Manny Waks, was present in the courtroom even with coronavirus prevailing in Israel. His face mask bore the tag #bringleiferback.
Talking at a press conference following the lightning-speed hearing, Waks expressed how delighted he was but he demanded the judicial process now move forward quickly.
“We expect the extradition hearing itself happens as soon as possible, no more negligence, whether it’s by the courts or politicians,” Waks said.
He further added that the sisters and he wished to follow up on the actions made by the Adass Israel School.
“Malka Leifer is here [in Israel] why? Because the Addas school sent her on a plane to Israel, they need to be held to account.”
After allegations of sexual abuse arose in 2008 against Leifer, the school where she worked bought her tickets and flew her to Israel where she has remained ever since.
Leifer’s defence is expected to appeal the court’s decision, meaning the case would then move to the Jerusalem High Court.
If the High Court accepts the District Court’s ruling that Leifer is fit to face trial the extradition hearing will finally take place.
With AAP and The Associated Press.