MORE than a dozen senior federal politicians this week threw their support behind the campaign to extradite Malka Leifer.
Alleged victims of the former principal of Melbourne’s Adass Israel School, sisters Dassi Erlich and Nicole Meyer, met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, Attorney-General Christian Porter and others at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday.
Leifer fled the country for Israel when abuse allegations against her were revealed in 2008.
Six years later Victoria Police sought her extradition to Australia, where she faces 74 charges of child sexual abuse. But despite more than 60 court hearings in Israel, Leifer has evaded extradition, claiming she is mentally unfit to face legal proceedings.
Erlich insisted now is the time for action. “We would like the Prime Minister to raise this directly with the Israeli government, as Malcolm Turnbull did,” she said in Canberra yesterday. “We want action, not platitude.
“We feel validated that we are given this opportunity to raise this important cause in the highest levels of the Australian government.”
Thanking Labor MP for Macnamara Josh Burns, who facilitated yesterday’s trip to Canberra, Erlich, added, “We are very appreciate of Josh, who has been absolutely incredible and organised a lot of meetings for us.”
Burns concurred that the Prime Minister should raise the issue with Israeli authorities. “There have now been more than 60 court hearings in Israel on this case that has included allegations of corrupt ministerial interference, faking mental illness and a seemingly endless cycle of psychiatric panels,” he said in Parliament on Wednesday.
Just met with PM @ScottMorrisonMP
An extremely productive and encouraging meeting. The PM expressed that he has raised this issue directly with @netanyahu & will continue to raise Australia's strong interest in the case with the @IsraeliPM
We felt heard and supported.
— Dassi Erlich #bringleiferback (@dassi_erlich) October 23, 2019
“I stand today with so many Members on both sides of the house, and I especially want to acknowledge the Member for Wentworth [Dave Sharma], in saying this: It’s time for this farce to end. Dassi, Nicole and Elly [Sapper, who was unable to travel to Canberra] deserve justice as do all of Ms Leifer’s victims. They deserve to see Malka Leifer be returned to Victoria to face justice.”
Burns said Australia has a long, proud history of deep friendship with the State of Israel.
“Right now, we ask our friends – put an end to this shameful chapter. Bring Leifer back.”
Liberal Member for Wentworth Sharma was Australia’s ambassador to Israel when the formal request to extradite Leifer was made in 2014.
“I distinctly recall receiving and formally conveying our extradition request,” Sharma said in Parliament. “I expected it would be a straightforward case, that the wheels of justice would turn and that within the space of 12 to 18 months we would see Ms Leifer extradited to Australia in order to face justice for these most grave and serious charges levelled against her.”
Credit: Auspic/DPS pic.twitter.com/iYNrVb4zXx
— Dave Sharma (@DaveSharma) October 23, 2019
Sharma described the 60 court hearings as “an affront to justice” and “deeply traumatic for the victims of this abuse”.
He said it is “damaging to Israel’s reputation” and “increasingly becoming a point of contention and friction in our otherwise positive and productive relationship” with the Jewish homeland and that Australians will not rest until Leifer is extradited.
“We will keep faith with the victims of this awful abuse, and we will be relentless in ensuring that justice is done in this case.”
Labor MP for Isaacs Mark Dreyfus said that after working with former prime minister Julia Gillard to establish the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, he can’t accept that Leifer continues to hide from justice in Israel.
“Israel’s Declaration of Independence declares that the State of Israel will ‘be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel’,” Dreyfus told Parliament.
“It is long past time that Ms Leifer was extradited to Australia to face justice … and for Israel to honour its commitment to the rule of the law and to justice.”