Israel extradites former teacher wanted for sex crimes to Australia
Malka Leifer, a former headmistress who is wanted on 74 charges of child sex abuse in Australia, is accused of sexually abusing several former students at a Jewish school in Melbourne.
She fled to Israel after her case was taken to the police and she had been fighting extradition since 2014.
Despite a growing number of cases against her, Leifer maintains her innocence and the prolonged court case created tensions between Israel and Australia.
She was placed on a flight early Monday, several hours before Israel was to close its international airport to nearly all air traffic to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
Israeli media photographed Leifer boarding a plane at Ben Gurion Airport with her ankles and wrists shackled.
Israeli news site Ynet reported that Leifer boarded a flight to Frankfurt, where she was to transfer to another flight to Australia. Her lawyer, Nick Kaufman, confirmed the extradition.
Three sisters - Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper - have accused Leifer of abusing them while they were students at a Melbourne ultra-Orthodox school. They were at the forefront of the campaign for justice, yet there is said to be more victims.
"This is an incredible day for justice!" said Manny Waks, head of Voice against Child Sex Abuse, an organisation representing Leifer’s victims. “We can now truly look forward to Leifer facing justice in Australia on the 74 charges she is facing,” he said.
“Leifer is on the plane to Australia”, Erlich announced on Facebook.
After allegations surfaced against her in 2008, Leifer and her family left for Israel and have been living in the settlement of Emmanuel in the occupied West Bank.
A previous extradition attempt between 2014 and 2016 failed after Leifer was hospitalised in mental institutions and expert opinions found she was not fit to stand trial.
But undercover private investigators later filmed Leifer shopping and depositing a cheque at a bank.
This prompted Israeli authorities to launch a probe into whether she was faking mental illness to avoid extradition, leading to her arrest in February 2018.
Israeli police also have recommended charges of fraud and breach of trust against former Health Minister Yaakov Litzman on suspicions he pressured ministry employees to skew Leifer's psychiatric evaluations in her favour. Litzman, a powerful ultra-Orthodox politician, denies wrongdoing.
Last year, an Israeli psychiatric panel determined Leifer was lying about her mental condition, setting in motion the extradition. In December, the Supreme Court rejected a final appeal against her extradition, and Israel's justice minister signed the order to send her to Australia.
Details of Leifer's connecting flight to Australia were not immediately available.