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Leifer appeal heard

'While we can take heart that the long and painful road endured so far eventually did lead to an extradition hearing, nonetheless the ordeal continues'.

Malka Leifer being brought brought to a courtroom in Jerusalem in February 2018. 
Photo: AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean
Malka Leifer being brought brought to a courtroom in Jerusalem in February 2018. Photo: AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean

A SUPREME Court of Israel judge has acknowledged that “some of the things that happened with this [Leifer] case have never taken place in the history of the establishment of the state of Israel”.

During an appeal against the ruling that alleged child sexual abuser Malka Leifer is mentally fit to face extradition, head judge Yitzhak Amit said the number of appeals the case has had was unprecedented, even among Israel’s most high-profile murder trials.

“This statement from a Supreme Court judge felt validating,” alleged victim Dassi Erlich said after the hearing on Wednesday night (Australian time).

Lamenting the “never-ending quest for justice”, in what was the 70th court hearing regarding the matter, Erlich added, “We hope to see Leifer in Australia before #courtdate80!”

The panel of three judges accepted the defence’s request at the beginning of the hearing that the session be held behind closed doors and that Leifer be allowed to return to her cell, rather than listening in via videoconference.

No date has been given for when the appeal decision will be handed down.

The Jerusalem District Court that deemed Leifer fit for an extradition hearing, which was held last week, will hand down its decision on the matter on September 21.

From left: Elly Sapper, Dassi Erlich and Nicole Meyer speaking to media in May. Photo: Peter Haskin

Editorial:

ON September 21, after more than six years and 69 court hearings, we may finally learn whether the State of Israel will return Malka Leifer to Australia to face charges of child sexual abuse.

While we can take heart that the long and painful road endured so far eventually did lead to an extradition hearing, with justice now hopefully in sight, nonetheless the ordeal continues.

An appeal against the ruling that Leifer is mentally fit to face extradition is due to be held at the Supreme Court.

And while alleged victim Dassi Erlich described last week’s proceedings as a “pivotal milestone”, for her and her two sisters, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper, listening to the case unfold was harrowing.

Suggestions by the defence team that if the abuse had occurred, given the girls’ ages at the time, the sexual contact could be construed as consensual was, in Dassi’s words, “disheartening and traumatising”.

How much more pain can these courageous sisters endure? Pain allegedly inflicted by their former principal, a woman they trusted. Pain allegedly inflicted by a country whose own health minister sought to aid Leifer avoid justice. And now the pain of victim blaming with Leifer’s defence suggesting they allowed the alleged abuse to happen.

Despite this, the years of delays and tactics by Leifer’s legal team and the immense personal toll, Erlich and her sisters have held their heads high.

As Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler pointed out, “Throughout this process they have exemplified dignity and courage.”

We commend Israeli prosecutors who have not for a minute stopped fighting for justice. And the countless politicians in Australia who have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the alleged victims.

Federal Liberal MP Dave Sharma, who moved a motion in Parliament with his Labor colleague Josh Burns earlier this year, calling on the Israeli government to immediately return Leifer to Victoria, said they “will not rest until justice is done”.

Burns added, “Each hearing is painful. Every delay is unfair. But the sisters pursue justice with grace, dignity and strength.

“And we stand with them.”

We say #BringLeiferBack, and now we are closer than ever.

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