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World News | Australian prosecutors say ex-Israeli school principal faked mental illness to avoid extradition

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CANBERRA, June 29 (AP) – The former principal of an Australian Jewish school faked mental illness in a seven-year fight to avoid extradition on child sex abuse charges, prosecutors said Thursday.

Malka Leifer fought extradition in a Jerusalem court from 2014 to 2021 when she was flown back from Israel with shackles on her ankles and wrists.

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Leifer appeared in Victoria County Court on Thursday for the second day of his sentencing hearing. She was found guilty in April of sexually abusing two students between 2003 and 2007, when she was principal of the ultra-Orthodox Adas Israel Girls’ School in Melbourne.

Prosecutor Justin Lewis told Judge Mark Gamble that Leifer’s time spent in detention and house arrest in her native Israel should not be punished because she was “unduly frustrated and delayed the extradition process”.

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He said the Jerusalem district court ruled she was fit to stand trial and feigned mental illness to avoid extradition, and three justices of Israel’s highest court unanimously agreed that she could be charged.

Two psychiatrists appointed by the Jerusalem District Psychiatrist reported to the district court in February 2018 that Leifer was not legally mentally ill but had pretended to be mentally ill in order to prevent her extradition to Australia .

The second evaluation, which included a third psychiatrist appointed by the Jerusalem District Psychiatrist, also concluded that Leifer had feigned mental illness.

The district court then ordered the Tel Aviv district psychiatrist to appoint a panel of experts to evaluate her.

Lewis said the panel unanimously concluded in January 2020 that she was mentally fit to stand trial and that she “had no problem pretending to be unable to function and understand her situation.”

Before any legal hearings, some psychiatrists and Leifer’s lawyers said she experienced a “nervous breakdown” and that her hospitalization almost always came in the days leading up to the case.

“The three psychiatric panels concluded that the defendants feigned mental illness which in essence constituted some kind of hypersensitivity to the legal proceeding itself,” Lewis said. “The defendants feigned mental illness for this purpose. illness, prolonging the proceedings.”

Gamble postponed the sentencing hearing until a third day. A date has not yet been set.

He said he had not yet read the documents submitted by both parties, including Israeli court records. He is also awaiting an affidavit from Leifer’s lawyer in Israel about the conditions of her family’s detention there.

Lefer spent 608 days in family detention and 51 days in Israeli custody before being extradited. Her legal dispute with the Australian and Israeli governments has previously strained relations between them and angered Australia’s Jewish community.

Lefer, who was born in Tel Aviv, came to Australia in 2000 as head of religion at the school and became principal the following year.

She returned to Israel in 2008 when the allegations against her first emerged.

Sisters Dassi Erlich and Elly Sapper said in court Wednesday that Leifer’s sexual abuse shattered their ability to trust and left them haunted.

The Associated Press does not usually identify victims of sexual abuse, but the sisters chose to do so in the media.

Leifer watched the proceedings via video link from a maximum security women’s prison in Melbourne.

She was convicted of six counts of rape, each carrying a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

She was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault against a child, each carrying a possible 10-year sentence, and six counts of indecent assault, also carrying a possible 10-year sentence. She was found guilty of three counts of child molestation, which carries a penalty of five years in prison. There is no minimum sentence. (Associated Press)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a syndicated news feed, the latest staff may not have revised or edited the body of content)


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