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Israeli court rules Malka Leifer must remain in psychiatric facility

Gabrielle Weiniger

Published: March 9 2018 - 3:33AM


Jerusalem: Alleged child abuser Malka Leifer will remain in custody in a psychiatric ward after prosecutors appealed to stop her release to house arrest.

At the hearing in Israel’s Supreme Court on Thursday, Leifer’s defence lawyer Yehuda Fried argued that the former Melbourne school principal was not a flight risk, and that while recent evidence may show her living a normal life, Leifer was unfit to stand trial and was still having psychotic episodes - a claim that saw her extradition trial abandoned three years ago.

Despite Fried's efforts, Leifer will remain in custody in the medical facility for the next few days, until the Supreme Court judge evaluates the evidence and makes a final ruling next week.

The decision to keep her in remand comes a day after the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court ordered Leifer to be released from custody. She had been held in prison-like conditions at the Eitanim psychiatric hospital since her re-arrest on February 12.

New evidence showing Leifer living a seemingly normal life prompted authorities to re-arrest her last month, three years after charges were dropped due to mental illness.

Lefier was set to be released on bail on Friday after a high-profile rabbi made a surprise appearance in court as a character witness on Wednesday.

Judge Ram Winograd ruled that Leifer should be confined to a house in Kibbutz Beit HaEmek, located in the western Galilee district, under the custody of the town's chief rabbi, Yitzhak Grossman, and flanked by two court-approved supervisors guaranteeing 24-hour supervision.

Rabbi Grossman, the recipient of the 2004 Israel Prize, argued for the former principal of Elsternwick's Adass Israel school to be freed while she fights extradition to Australia. Her siblings, present in court, guaranteed to post bail for $37,000.

The successful appeal to delay bail was met with relief by her alleged victims, who were outraged by the court’s decision to free her to house arrest.

Manny Waks, who heads Kol v'Oz, an Australian organisation aiming to prevent sexual abuse in Jewish communities, wrote on social media: “We’re pleased the appeal was successful and the latest travesty of justice has been averted, at least temporarily.”

The Israeli Supreme Court just heard the appeal by the Prosecution on the District Court's decision to release Malka...

Posted by Kol v'Oz on  Thursday, 8 March 2018

Leifer fled Melbourne for Israel when child abuse allegations first surfaced in 2008. She has been living in the West Bank settlement of Emmanuel.

Extradition proceedings were reignited last month after video surveillance footage filmed by private investigators appeared to show Leifer leading a normal life, contrary to her claims of mental illness and to 2014 expert evaluations that determined she was not fit to stand trial.

After launching their own undercover investigation, Israeli authorities rearrested the 54-year-old for obstruction of justice for faking mental illness to avoid facing justice.

Representatives from the Australian embassy attended Thursday's hearing. The next hearing for the case will be on March 28.

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