JERUSALEM (AP) – The Israeli Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed an appeal against the extradition of a former teacher wanted in Australia on child sexual abuse charges, paving the way for her to face trial after a legal saga of six years.
Malka Leifer, a former schoolteacher accused of sexually assaulting several former students at a Jewish school in Melbourne, has been fighting extradition from Israel since 2014. Leifer maintains her innocence and the six-year legal battle over her extradition has strained relations between Israel and Australia. .
Supreme Court justices said the ruling is a finalization of “the appellant’s decision as extradite” to face trial in Australia.
The Justice Department said in a statement that the ruling “brings us a significant step closer to the extradition of Malka Leifer to Australia” and that the Department will “continue to make every effort to expedite Malka Leifer’s extradition to Australia,” so that she can stand trial for the crimes she is accused of. “
Israeli Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn praised the court’s decision and said he would sign the extradition warrant immediately.
“After long and agonizing years, it is time to do justice to the victims of Leifer,” he wrote on Twitter.
Critics, including Leifer’s alleged victims, have accused Israeli authorities of rooting out the legal process for far too long.
In September, a court in Jerusalem approved Leifer’s extradition to Australia after the country’s highest court upheld a ruling that she was mentally fit to face trial.
Earlier this year, an Israeli psychiatric panel found that Leifer lied about suffering from a mental illness that allegedly made her unfit to face trial. As a result of the findings, the Israeli Justice Department said it would speed up its extradition to see 74 allegations of child sexual abuse.
Three sisters – Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper – have accused Leifer of abusing them while they were students at an ultra-Orthodox school in Melbourne. There would be more victims.
“We have a very long journey ahead of us, one that really should have started nine years ago,” said Meyer. “If I could send a message to all survivors, then I should get in touch, get support, share your story and let’s get these abusers off the street.”
The Associated Press does not usually identify alleged victims of sexual abuse, but the sisters have spoken publicly about their allegations against Leifer.
When the allegations surfaced in 2008, Israeli-born Leifer left school and returned to Israel, where she has lived ever since.
Her attorney, Nick Kaufman, seemed to acknowledge that his client has exhausted her legal options to fight extradition, but expressed the hope that if convicted, she could serve her prison sentence in Israel.
Kaufman said the court noted that Leifer’s “unique nature of her religious way of life” was an ultra-Orthodox Jew and recognized that it “would pose significant problems for her in an Australian prison.”
“Should Malka Leifer be convicted and sentenced to imprisonment, we hope that the relevant authorities will respond to a future request to serve such a sentence in Israel,” he said.