Leifer’s ‘victims’ slam ‘backwards’ ruling
A bid to get former Melbourne teacher Malka Leifer back to Australia to face child sex abuse charges has taken a dramatic twist, with an Israeli judge allowing an extraordinary defence proposal.
Judge Miriam Lomp will let psychiatrists for the defence testify about Leifer's mental health, despite a panel finding her to be a fraud who was fit to stand trial in Australia.
The decision, which came down on Monday in Jerusalem local time, opens the door to further delays, which has already been before the Israeli courts more than 60 times.
Her alleged victims and Jewish child abuse support groups were incensed at the decision.
Judge Lomp confirmed her decision to allow the defence to put forward their witness.
"After reviewing all of the parties' arguments and since the question that arises before me is whether Malka Leifer is fit to stand trial, and this is a question of expertise, I found at this stage that only expert witnesses should be heard," she said, according to a translation of her statement. "After investigating the panel's experts, the defendant is entitled to apply to the court again, as new circumstances arise and justify hearing of further experts on her behalf. Therefore, I allow her to submit another expert's opinion of Professor Tiano and Professor Kotler."
However a district psychiatrist, who is under investigation for giving favourable testimony for Leifer, will not be allowed to be heard in the court again
. Leifer's alleged victims, sisters Nicole Meyer, Dassi Erlich and Elly Sapper, said this was a step backwards.
"We have been patient. We have been calm. We have tried to trust the Israeli court system and understand this takes time," the women said in a statement. "But when we go backwards and repeat a process that has already been endlessly delayed we have had enough."
Manny Waks, chief executive of Jewish child abuse support group Kol V'Oz, said he was blindsided by the decision.
"This unprecedented decision continues to make a mockery of the Israeli legal system. Judge Lomp herself appointed this latest psychiatric panel, which has made a unanimous, unequivocal decision; that Leifer is faking her illness and that she is in fact fit to face justice," he said. "Why on earth does Judge Lomp need to hear from these psychiatrists again? Why is there a need to continue to delay this prolonged farcical case?
"We continue to stand with the courageous victims and will do everything we can to ensure justice ultimately prevails."
Tal Gabbay, a lawyer for Leifer, welcomed the decision.
"The decision was obvious to us and it is a pity that the prosecutor's office tried to trample on Leifer's rights and fight the request," he said. "We are preparing for a court hearing. All parties should be responsible and stop its attempts to engage in political campaigns made to put pressure on the court and make a violation of the considerations of justice in the Israeli judicial system".
Leifer was head of Melbourne's ultra orthodox Adass Israel School when the alleged offending happened.
She fled to Israel in 2008 after hearing about the complaint and remains in custody awaiting an extradition trial.