Accused child sex abuser Malka Leifer (right) is being held in Israel.
Jerusalem. Accused child abuser Malka Leifer, who is wanted in Australia on dozens of counts of sexual abuse, has been found fit to face an extradition hearing, according to two psychiatric reports.
The expert psychiatric assessments conducted by Jerusalem psychiatrists Dr Barash and Dr Weisberg have yet to be seen in court, but have been signed off by the city’s chief psychiatrist, a Jerusalem court heard on Tuesday.
Judge Hannah Miriam Lomf set a court date in three months’ time to hear psychiatrists' evaluations to rule whether the former Melbourne school principal is mentally capable of standing trial for extradition to Australia.
The 54-year-old, who was not present in court, is behind bars after videos from an undercover police operation emerged showed her living a normal, healthy life – despite being declared unfit for extradition due to mental illness during previous Israeli court attempts to extradite her in 2014 and 2016.
February’s re-arrest is the subject of a separate court case.
Defense Lawyer Yehuda Fried has the chance to seek a new assessment of Leifer’s mental state to be presented to the court by October 14.
He has previously vowed to bring a long string of experts and previous psychiatric testimonies as character witnesses to Leifer’s mental state, stating in Tuesday’s hearing that he will fly over psychiatric experts who evaluated Leifer during her time in Australia.
Speaking to the judge, Fried said the time frame to go over the new reports was “irrelevant”, calling instead to close the extradition case while there was a domestic case still pending.
However, the state prosecution, headed by Matan Akiva, successfully argued for the court to make a decision based on the newly-signed psychiatric reports, which will be heard, evaluated and cross-examined by both prosecution and defence in an eight-hour-long hearing on November 15.
“The defence is trying to make the process go on and on forever. I’m glad the court finally understands this and has put an end to the defense’s time-stalling tactics that have been present since the start,” Akiva told journalists outside the courtroom.
An advocate for Kol v’Oz, a Jewish organisation combating child sex abuse, commented outside the Jerusalem District Court, saying the continued delays were “extremely frustrating and disappointing. It continues to make a mockery of the Israeli justice system.”
But the new court date came as a relief to one of Leifer’s alleged victims, who spoke to journalists via video-call from Melbourne outside court, saying she was “thrilled to hear that [Leifer] is fit to stand trial”.
“It’s been four years too long, but this is another step towards a conclusion we’re all waiting to see," said Dassi Erlich, who called for a trial as soon as possible.
The next extradition hearing is set for November 15.
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