MORE than 2000 days after a request was issued by Victoria Police to bring alleged child sexual abuser Malka Leifer back to Australia, an Israeli judge this week finally ordered that she be extradited.
After six years of painstaking delays, more than 70 court hearings, claims of mental illness, psychological evaluations, allegations of political interference, and tension between our two nations, the Jerusalem District Court delivered a ruling our community, and three brave women who never gave up hope, could smile about.
While this was the most significant development in the long-running case to date, it should be noted that Israel’s Justice Minister must now sign off on the extradition, and Leifer’s lawyers have indicated they will appeal the decision. They can also appeal the minister’s approval to extradite.
Despite this, the Israeli judicial system – which has been the cause of so much strain on sisters Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper, as well as disappointment for the Australian Jewish community, which has rallied behind them, time and again – is to be commended.
Monday’s decision means Leifer is the closest she has ever been to facing 74 charges of child sex abuse in Victoria.
It also sends a clear message that Israel does not allow those who have committed alleged crimes to avoid justice.
Late last year, Erlich wrote, “I wonder when your headline will read ‘it’s going ahead’ instead of ‘yet another setback’,” in response to a front page article by The AJN about another delay in the case.
Our faith over the years in a fair outcome was fast running out. Not only was Israel’s then-deputy health minister Yaakov Litzman accused of interfering in attempts to extradite Leifer, by pressuring psychiatrists to state she was unfit to stand trial, he was then promoted to health minister.
Meanwhile, during the Melbourne leg of his Australian visit earlier this year, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin refused to meet Dassi and her sisters.
But they never stopped fighting for justice, and we salute them for their determination, strength, and resilience.
As Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said this week, “They’re heroes. The courage, the grace, and the dignity of those Victorians is quite amazing.”
Bring Leifer back!