Israel Extradites Sex-Crime Suspect Leifer to Australia

Malka Leifer, a former Australian school principal who is wanted in Australia on suspicion of sexually abusing students, walks in the corridor of the Jerusalem District Court, accompanied by Israeli Prison Service guards, in Jerusalem, Feb. 14, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun / File.

A former Australian school principal accused of sexually assaulting students was extradited to Australia on Monday under an order from Israel’s Supreme Court, her lawyer said.

Malka Leifer had fought her return to Australia, including with a submission of mental illness, and the case has been in Israeli courts since 2014.

Leifer, who was principal of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in Melbourne, has denied the allegations against her.

Wanted by Australian police on 74 sexual assault charges, including rape, involving girls at her former school, Leifer, who also holds Israeli citizenship, fled Australia in 2008 after the accusations surfaced.

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Leifer had appealed her extradition to Israel’s Supreme Court, which in December upheld a lower court ruling that she could be extradited on the basis of a series of psychiatric examinations that found she had faked mental illness.

Leifer’s defense counsel, Nick Kaufman, told Reuters she was extradited on Monday morning. A spokeswoman for the Israel Prison Service also confirmed her extradition.

A spokesman for Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter said that the Australian government “does not comment on logistics involving extradition arrangements against individuals until the extradition process has been concluded.”

Photos published by Israel’s Ynet news site showed what appeared to be prison officials escorting Leifer, who was dressed in civilian clothing, aboard an aircraft at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport.

Kaufman said that Israeli authorities had been expected to ensure “maximum respect for Leifer’s dignity” until she left Israel.

“This clearly did not happen, given the fact that photographs of her being led in handcuffs and legcuffs were leaked to the press,” Kaufman said.

Leifer’s extradition comes hours before Israel is due to ban passenger flights in and out of the country for a week in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The flight restrictions begin on Monday evening.

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