Israeli minister signs Australia deport order for sex abuse suspect

·2-min read
Malka Leifer, a former Australian teacher accused of dozens of cases of sexual abuse of girls at a school, arrives for a hearing at the District Court in Jerusalem in February 2018

Israel's justice minister on Wednesday signed a deportation order against Malka Leifer, a former Jewish ultra-Orthodox school principal accused of sexual abuse against pupils in Australia.

The move follows Tuesday's Israeli Supreme Court rejection of Leifer's latest appeal against deportation and brings a six-year legal wrangle closer to an end, although a prosecutor said after the court ruling that a further appeal remained possible.

"I just signed the order of deportation of Malka Leifer to Australia," justice minister Avi Nissenkorn tweeted in Hebrew Wednesday evening.

"After many years, after a despicable attempt to portray herself as mentally ill, and in light of the Supreme Court ruling, it is our moral duty to allow her to be brought to trial," he wrote.

Leifer, an Israeli, is accused of child sex abuse while she worked as a teacher and principal at an ultra-Orthodox school in Melbourne.

According to Australian media, she faces 74 counts of child sex abuse against girls.

After allegations against her surfaced in Australia in 2008, Leifer and her family left for Israel and moved to the Emmanuel settlement in the occupied West Bank.

In its ruling the Supreme Court noted the years in which Australia's extradition request had been bogged down in Israeli courts.

"More than six years have passed since a request was filed in the Jerusalem district court to declare the appellant extradited to Australia," it wrote.

Since then, it continued, "there is no proceeding that the appellant has not taken" to prevent her extradition.

Extradition agreements signed by Israel "must be respected and anyone seeking to flee justice will not find sanctuary in Israel," it said.

Israeli prosecution lawyer Avital Ritner-Oron however said after the judgement that it could still be "months" before Leifer is on her way to Australia.

She told KAN radio that even after the extradition order's signature, Leifer's lawyers could still file another appeal against the judgement.

She added that it would also take some time to coordinate the practicalities of her transfer with Australian authorities.

scw/dwo