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Malka Leifer, facing 74 counts of child sexual abuse, fit to be extradited from Israel

A judge in an Israeli court has ruled that Malka Leifer, a former school principal who has been accused of sexual abuse by former students, is fit to be extradited from Israel to Australia, where the alleged abuses occurred, after six years of extradition hearings.

Leifer, 53, is set to stand trial in Australia on 74 counts of child sex abuse.

Leifer and her defense team for years sought to portray Leifer as mentally unfit to be extradited. In January, a panel of psychiatrists concluded that her supposed mental illness was fake, and that Leifer was in fact fit to stand trial.

Judge Chana Miriam Lomp, ruling that Leifer could be extradited, noted that Leifer did not cooperate with the psychiatric panel “when asked questions related to the legal process, but on other issues she answered questions matter-of-factly in three different sessions.” Lomp said that though Leifer may suffer from some kind of mental illness, she does not have “problems of mental illness in the legal sense.”

Lomp’s ruling was celebrated by Leifer’s accusers.

“This abusive woman has been exploiting Israeli courts for 6 years! Intentionally creating obstacles, endless vexatious arguments – only lengthening our ongoing trauma!” one of Leifer’s alleged victims, Dassi Erlich, said in a statement to The Times of Israel. “Too many emotions to process!!! This is huge!”

Leifer, who was born in Israel, has been living in the country since 2008, when allegations of sexual abuse against her surfaced at the Melbourne girls’ school where she was the principal. In the town she settled in, she was allowed to continue teaching despite town leaders knowing of the allegations against her.

The ruling can be appealed by Leifer’s attorneys, and Leifer may not be extradited for at least a year.

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at feldman@forward.com or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman

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