An Israeli court on Monday approved the long-awaited extradition of an Australian women suspected of sexually abusing students at a Jewish ultra-Orthodox school in Melbourne.
“After lengthy and complex extradition proceedings, today the [Jerusalem] District Court declared Malka Leifer extraditable to Australia,” confirmed Moran Shmuel, an Israeli Justice Ministry spokeswoman.
“Today is an important and significant day for the rule of law, for international cooperation and most importantly for those who were victims of Malka Leifer’s crimes,” the spokeswoman said.
Leifer, a former educator, is accused of sexually abusing several of her female students at the the ultra-Orthodox Adass Israel School.
She faces 74 charges of child sexual abuse for offences allegedly committed between 2004 and 2008, first when Leifer was a teacher and then as the school’s headmistress.
She “fled” to Israel in 2008 after allegations from former students emerged and she was subsequently suspended.
She has been fighting extradition from Israel since 2014.
“I accept the petition [filed in 2014 by Israel’s then justice minister] and declare that the respondent is extraditable to Australia,” said Jerusalem District Court judge Chana Miriam Lomp in Monday’s court ruling.
Leifer has denied the allegations and the battle over her extradition has strained relations between Israel and Australia.
Leifer had made “every effort” to delay proceedings and avoid being flown to Australia since a petition for her extradition was filed to the Jerusalem court in 2014, the ministry spokeswoman said.
“Today, the court put an end to those efforts by declaring her extraditable,” she added, noting Israel was “pleased” with the outcome and looked forward to “continued and successful cooperation” with Australia.
Dassi Erlich, one of three sisters at the centre of the allegations, called the the decision “a victory for all survivors!!”
“Exhaling years of holding our breath! We truly value every person standing with us in our refusal to remain silent! Today our hearts are smiling!” Dassi tweeted.
Dassi and her sisters Nicole and Elly did not realize the severity of their abuse until Dassi spoke to a therapist years later, who then helped the women move forward with their allegations.
Josh Burns, the Australian member of parliament whose electorate includes the Adass Israel School, said “justice has taken far too long. But finally, justice has won the day.”
“After 72 court hearings, an Israeli court has finally said the words Dassi, Nicole and Elly have been waiting to hear,” Burns wrote on Twitter.
Leifer’s attorneys have said they would appeal an extradition order at Israel’s Supreme Court.
They have 30 days to lodge an appeal.
Critics, including Leifer’s alleged victims and the Australian government, have accused Israeli authorities of dragging out the case for far too long.