Australian Malka Leifer, right, is brought to a courtroom in Jerusalem. Picture: AP
Australian Malka Leifer, right, is brought to a courtroom in Jerusalem. Picture: AP

'Sex abuse' teacher case delayed after fiery court hearing

Former Melbourne schoolteacher Malka Leifer has bought more time after an Israeli court delayed a decision on whether to start an extradition case against her until March.

Leifer, who remains in custody in a jail outside Tel Aviv, is wanted in Australia on 74 charges of child sex abuse during her time at an ultra-orthodox Adass Israel school in Elsternwick, Melbourne.

A psychiatric report from a panel of experts had found Leifer was fit to face an extradition trial, claiming she was a fraud.

However, Judge Miriam Lomp, of the Jerusalem District Court, allowed the defence to delay the process until at least March 18 as they sought to cross examine the psychiatrists who assessed Leifer.

Former Adass Israel School principal Malka Leifer. Picture: Supplied
Former Adass Israel School principal Malka Leifer. Picture: Supplied

"I decide that for cross examining the panel experts we will bring all the recordings, audio, including transcripts and the work portfolio that will include the notes that the experts used," she said.

The courtroom was described as a "kindergarten", with lawyers yelling at each other and Judge Lomp sometimes had to shout to calm them down, warning defence lawyer Tal Gabay she would kick him out.

"Please stop, when you talked, you had your time, please be patient, I will send you outside to relax. Write notes to yourself if you're afraid that you will forget," she said.

Judge Lomp told prosecutor Aviad Eliya: "Stop commenting on his arguments, just speak to me and ignore him."

The court heard three psychiatrists assessed Leifer last week.

Leifer's brother, sister and her son, who were dressed in ultra-orthodox attire, attended the 10m by 10m courtroom in the heart of Jerusalem.

Mr Eliya said the extradition case should start immediately.

"The weight of the panel's decision speaks for itself. This is a panel of experts, not only that the normal burden of proof has been met, it was doubled," he said.

Sisters Nicole Meyer and Dassi Erlich are pressuring Israel to extradite the schoolteacher who they claim abused them in Melbourne, Malka Leifer. Picture: Supplied
Sisters Nicole Meyer and Dassi Erlich are pressuring Israel to extradite the schoolteacher who they claim abused them in Melbourne, Malka Leifer. Picture: Supplied

"The panel found that Leifer is an impostor, her judgment is healthy and she's fit to stand trial.

"My friend (the defence lawyer Tal Gabay) is in an acrobatic argument trying to draw a picture that the court has no authority to decide based on the panel's evidence, that's absurd."

He added it was "the duty of the court and of all sides to start moving and to minimise the damage that was done by Leifer."

Mr Gabay, who began yelling at Mr Eliya during the hearing, said his client was a victim of international politics.

"The prosecution wants to do this legal process in the public arena, I wish to remind them they are not messengers of the government of Australia," he said.

"The application to request to renew the extradition process was sent to the media before it was sent to the defence, that's outrageous. I wish to remind them they are not a PR office."

Malka Leifer's brother, sister and son leave court. Picture: Ella Pellegrini
Malka Leifer's brother, sister and son leave court. Picture: Ella Pellegrini

Mr Gabay demanded copies of video, audio, transcripts and notes of the psychiatric panel that were used to make the assessments.

The defence also asked to cross examine Jacob Charnes, the psychiatrist at the centre of claims of political interference in the case by Israel's health minister.

Manny Waks, of Israel based victims support group Kol v'Oz, said the courtroom was like a "kindergarten".

"It seems that the Judge is doing everything in her power not to make a decision," he said.

"We have an unequivocally psychiatric panel decision so we should be moving towards an extradition hearing now."

Judge Lomp set a series further hearing dates, with the last to be held on March 18, reserving her decision.

Leifer fled Australia to Israel in 2008, allegedly with the help of her school, after sexual abuse claims were made against her.

stephen.drill@news.co.uk


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