By: Arye Green
Judge Ram Vinograd of the Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday ruled that alleged sex offender Malka Leifer will be released to house arrest in B’nei Brak. The Prosecution was given until Friday to advise the Court whether they would like to appeal the decision.
Last week the court decided to appoint an expert panel to rule on whether or not Leifer is fit to be extradited to Australia. The decision postponed the extradition process to a later date, after six years of legal proceedings against the alleged pedophile.
Leifer, an Australian and former Ultra-Orthodox girls’ school principal, is charged in her country with dozens of cases of child abuse. She fled from Australia to Israel in 2008 following allegations that she had sexually abused her students at the Adass Yisroel school in Melbourne on 74 different occasions.
Victims’ rights advocate Manny Waks said that the decision to allow Leifer, an alleged pedophile, to live near schools and synagogues is a travesty.
“Malka Leifer will now be released to the care of her sister at an address within around 500 meters of two schools and six synagogues. If Leifer is genuinely unwell, she should be held in a medical facility or jail where she can be appropriately cared for until her extradition to Australia is approved. This decision is an absolute travesty and continues to bring shame on the State of Israel. My heart goes out to Leifer’s victims at this incredibly difficult time,” he said.
Nicole Meyer, one of Leifer’s victims, said the decision shocked her, and that she felt hurt by Israeli authorities. “I am deeply shocked and astounded that someone who is well enough for house arrest isn’t well enough to get on a plane. I am hurt by the State of Israel,” she said.
Last month, the police recommended indicting Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman on accounts of aiding the alleged sex offender. Litzman is suspected of attempting to manipulate Leifer’s psychiatric evaluation to deem her mentally unfit to be extradited to Australia.
In July, the medical committee on Leifer’s mental health has come to the conclusion that she is faking a mental illness, and can be extradited to Australia. The committee also suspected that documents they received from the Israel Prison Service (IPS) regarding Leifer were faked, and sent them to the police for investigation.
Different psychiatric experts have offered contradicting opinions on Leifer’s condition. The experts summoned by the Police and the Attorney’s Office said she is fit for extradition, while private experts on behalf of the defense claimed she was unfit for extradition.
Judge Chana Miriam Lomp decided that an expert panel be appointed, as the information and evidence in the case are contradictory. The panel will include psychiatric experts appointed by the court and will submit a definitive conclusion on whether or not Leifer is mentally fit for extradition.
Nicole Erlich, one of Leifer’s alleged victims, said they were disappointed and were hoping for a better outcome from the court. “We were really hoping the beginning of the extradition process would begin today,” she said, adding that the legal process “has taken an extreme toll on our mental and emotional health.”
Nicole and her two sisters, who are also alleged victims, have issued a statement regarding the injustice of the legal process thus far.
“5 years, 57 court hearings and over 30 psychiatrists have been involved in determining if Malka Leifer can understand her charges. How is this not enough? How many more psychiatrists need to weigh in? How much more emotional pain? We are defeated but we will not give up,” they wrote.
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