Israel looks to speed up Malka Leifer extradition

Jerusalem: Israeli officials are seeking to expedite an extradition hearing for a woman facing dozens of sexual abuse charges in Australia after a psychiatric panel concluded she had lied about suffering from mental illness, the Justice Ministry announced on Monday.

The panel’s decision last week that found Malka Leifer fit to stand trial marked a major breakthrough in a years-old case that has strained relations between Israel and Australia and antagonised members of Australia’s Jewish community.

In its announcement, the Justice Ministry said the psychiatric panel had “unanimously and unequivocally” concluded that the former Melbourne school principal had faked mental illness in order to avoid extradition.

“The prosecution believes that the psychiatric panel’s definitive conclusions have removed the obstacles that stood in the way of any significant progress in this case,” the ministry said.

“The psychiatric panel’s findings lead to the inevitable conclusion that over the past five years, the court and the mental health system have fallen victim to a fraud perpetrated by Leifer and her supporters.”

Leifer faces 74 counts of sexual assault related to accusations brought forward by three sisters who say they were abused while she was a teacher and principal at the ultra-Orthodox religious school they attended in Melbourne.

In 2008, as the allegations surfaced, the Israeli-born Leifer left the school in Australia and returned to Israel.

Read the article in The Sydney Morning Herald (AP).