Trial Of Malka Leifer Opens In Australia After Local Court Deems Her Fit To Stand Trial

FILE - This Feb. 27, 2018, file photo, Israeli-born Australian Malka Leifer, right, is brought to a courtroom in Jerusalem. Israel’s Supreme Court on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, rejected an appeal challenging the extradition of Leifer, a former teacher wanted in Australia accused of sexually abusing several former students at a Jewish school in Melbourne, clearing the way for her to stand trial after a six-year legal saga. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean, File)

NEW YORK (VINnews) — The trial of Malka Leifer, a former chareidi girls’ school principal accused of abusing her students in Melbourne, commenced Tuesday, two years after she was extradited to Australia from Israel, where she fled in order to evade prosecution 15 years ago.

A court in Israel initially declared her unfit to stand trial but after a long period in which she lived an apparently normal life in the town of Emmanuel, she was rearrested after media and police scrutiny of her behavior and, after numerous delays and court cases regarding her mental state, extradited in January 2021.

Since then, several preliminary hearings have been held and a Melbourne court deemed Leifer fit to stand trial. She is charged with 70 sexual offenses with accusations from at least eight alleged victims, and has remained jailed without bond for the past two years.

The initial session Tuesday focused on jury selection, with some 80 potential jurors being presented to both sides. The list was then whittled down to 15 permanent members.

The case is being heard before Victoria County Court Judge Mark Gamble and is expected to last roughly six weeks.

On Wednesday the opening statements will be made and on Thursday the first complainants, sisters Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper, will be in the witness box.

“I’m relieved and delighted that this day has finally arrived and we look forward to some semblance of justice being served,” said Manny Waks, head of Voice Against Child Sexual Abuse, an Israeli-based organization fighting child abuse in the Jewish community.

“We stand in support of all those impacted by this trial,” he said.

The Leifer affair strained ties between Israel and Australia, with frustration peaking after it was revealed that Israel’s deputy health minister, Yaakov Litzman, was questioned by police on suspicion that he had been using his position to prevent Leifer’s extradition.

It was alleged that Litzman pressured doctors to falsify psychiatric evaluations that deemed Leifer unfit to stand trial, thereby preventing her extradition. Litzman claimed that everything he did was legal, and that he was acting “for the good of the public”. Like Leifer, Litzman is a Gur Hassid; it was revealed that Leifer had previously held a position at a school run by  Gur in Israel

In April 2021, Israeli police recommended prosecution of Litzman for his actions to protect Leifer. In June 2022, Litzman resigned from the Knesset after he signed a plea agreement admitting breach of trust in January that year.


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