FEDERAL members of Parliament united across the political divide this week calling for the “immediate extradition” of former Melbourne principal Malka Leifer from Israel.
The motion, introduced by Liberal Wentworth MP Dave Sharma and seconded by Labor Member for Macnamara Josh Burns, noted that “over five years have elapsed, and over 60 court hearings have been held in Israel, since the extradition request was first lodged, without any significant progress having been made”.
Leifer faces 74 charges relating to child sexual abuse in Victoria.
Recalling that Leifer has been found to feign mental illness to avoid extradition proceedings, Sharma charged, “This behaviour is not only an affront to justice; it is deeply traumatic for the victims of this abuse.
“It is damaging to Israel’s reputation and it is increasingly becoming a point of contention and friction in our otherwise positive and productive relationship with Israel,” he continued, also referring to allegations that Israel’s Health Minister, Yaakov Litzman, had pressured officials in his office to prevent the extradition.
“I do not doubt the independence and the integrity of the Israeli legal system; nor do I doubt the commitment of the Israeli justice ministry in pursuing this case, but, quite simply: enough is enough.”
Echoing Sharma’s sentiments, Burns referred to the recent open letter penned by Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which reminded, “Friendship must go both ways.”
“And right now our friends are not doing right by us,” said Burns.
The motion also acknowledged the bravery of Leifer’s alleged victims, including sisters Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper, “for their tireless pursuit of justice”.
Burns reflected, “It has been nine long years since the first brave victim, Dassi Erlich, gave her statement to Victoria Police … It has been four long years since Dassi Erlich began her public campaign to bring Leifer back, joining forces with her sisters, Nicole and Elly, to tell their story.
“Make no mistake: if justice is allowed to run its course, it will be because of the inspiring pursuit by three brave women.”
Liberal Member for Higgins, Dr Katie Allen; and Jewish MPs, Labor Member for Macarthur, Dr Mike Freelander; Liberal Member for Berowra, Julian Leeser; and Labor Member for Isaacs, Mark Dreyfus all subsequently rose to voice their support of the motion while honouring the courage shown by Erlich and her sisters.
Erlich told The AJN she felt very emotional and “in awe” of the stand taken in such a forum, as she listened at home to the debate.
“They spoke about this for close to 45 minutes, in support of us, in support of all the victims of sexual abuse, and really made such a stand for it. It was just so, so validating to be heard,” she said.
“During the motion, I was just looking at my daughter, and realising, it has been a lot of hard work to get to this space. Much of that has been wanting a better world for her and this plays a really big part in that hope.”
— Mark Sofer (@MarkSofer) February 13, 2020
Following the motion, Israel’s ambassador to Australia Mark Sofer said, “While Israeli law courts are independent, there are very many in Israel, including among the authorities, in whose eyes the case has gone on for far too long.”
He added, “The entire issue causes so many of us, too, deep anguish. I dearly hope that it will soon come to an end and that justice will finally be served.”
Leifer’s lawyers are due to cross-examine the latest psychiatric panel that has found her fit to face extradition proceedings later this month.
I sat listening to MP after MP stand & speak in support of us.
Looked at my daughter listening to their words thru earphones & filled with a sense of hope & pride.
Hope we r creating a better world for her future. Proud our Gov stood together 2night 4 all survivors of sex abuse
— Dassi Erlich #bringleiferback (@dassi_erlich) February 10, 2020
What the MPs said:
Labor Member for Isaacs
“This delay is utterly unacceptable. The ongoing anxiety and stress these delays cause to those who suffered from her crimes demonstrate the truth of the legal maxim ‘justice delayed is justice denied’. It is long past time that Ms Leifer were extradited to Australia to face justice for the horrific crimes that she is accused of, and for Israel to honour its commitment to the rule of law and to justice.”
Liberal Member for Berowra
“As a Jewish Australian, I know that Israel has provided a safe haven to many people who have no safe place and no home in which to belong. Malka Leifer is not one of these people. A fair trial must take place.”
The bipartisan motion put forward by @DaveSharma and seconded by @joshburnsmp in relation to the delays in the Malka Leifer case in Israel. With words of support from @KatieAllenMP @JulianLeeser @markdreyfusQCMP #DrMikeFreelander ???????? #bringleiferback pic.twitter.com/25ZgngoxNu
— Zionist Federation of Australia (@ZionistFedAus) February 11, 2020
Dr Mike Freelander
Labor Member for Macarthur
“In my opinion, her [Leifer’s] utter contempt for the rule of law speaks volumes about any potential plea she may make … The fact that an individual who is alleged to have committed such heinous acts can flout the rule of law is abhorrent and unacceptable to all of us.”
Dr Katie Allen
Liberal Member for Higgins
“It is disappointing that this dark cloud is still hanging over the Jewish community after repeated calls from so many state and federal MPs on both sides of politics, and Jewish leaders too, to bring Malka Leifer to Australia so she can face the justice system and her accusers.”