ALLEGED child sexual abuser Malka Leifer will be released on house arrest, a Jerusalem District Court judge ruled today (Wednesday).
Judge Ram Vinograd ordered Leifer to live with a relative in Bnei Brak until a three-expert panel decides in December if Leifer is mentally fit to face an extradition trial.
The decision was given after a tense hour-long hearing, during which the room became packed with Leifer family members and backers who offered to supervise her if given bail.
Leifer is charged with 74 counts of child sexual abuse from her time as the principal of the Adass Israel girls’ school in Melbourne.
Wednesday’s decision is another blow for Leifer’s accusers after a separate judge ruled late last month that Leifer should undergo a fresh assessment on December 10 to determine if she is mentally fit for an extradition hearing.
“The news is intolerable and has left us reeling,” alleged victim Dassi Erlich said after the decision.
“Given that we are all aware that Leifer is a flight risk as well as the potential of her reoffending, this blatant disregard for the wellbeing of the Israeli community is outstanding.
“What message does this send to other potential victims?”
Federal Member for Macnamara Josh Burns said the decision was “deeply disappointing”.
“I stand with the victims who have been denied justice for far too long. This farce must end,” Burns said.
He called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to “make direct contact with Israel to express Australia’s strong view that Ms Leifer must be extradited to Australia to face justice with no further delays”.
Stating that the latest development “defies explanation”, Wentworth MP Dave Sharma said, “Australia is committed to seeing justice done in this case, and we will not rest until it is.”
Caulfield MP David Southwick added, “Malka Leifer should not be out on bail in Israel but instead be put on a plane to face the 74 charges of sexual abuse back in Victoria.”
Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said, “It’s beyond belief that the court would grant bail, especially given the most recent allegations that Leifer still presents a threat to those around her.
“We stand in solidarity with the survivors of her abuse, and hope that this decision will be overturned on appeal.”
Leifer’s lawyer Yehuda Fried told The AJN he intends to fight the house arrest judgement and wants Leifer freed. The prosecution will appeal the verdict.
Leifer’s legal team had argued that their client experiences debilitating panic attacks when placed in situations of stress, but the prosecution claimed Leifer is faking her mental illness to elude extradition.
A private investigator who tracked Leifer for two weeks said she functions “like a normative woman and mother”.
“She does the shopping, hosts her children on Shabbat, goes to the grocery store, goes to the post office, speaks a lot on the cell phone, laughs, converses with people – nothing that could indicate a problem with her daily functioning,” private investigator Tzafrir Tzahi said.
It has also been alleged that Israel’s deputy health minister Yaakov Litzman put pressure on those assessing Leifer to state she was mentally unfit, a claim Litzman denies. Israeli police have recommended indicting Litzman on fraud and breach of trust.