Reflections on the Leifer ruling
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Reflections on the Leifer ruling

'If the panel and the judge deem her fit, the court will sit to decide on whether she should be extradited'.

Adass Israel ultra-Orthodox girls school headmistress Malka Leifer (left) with her students, among them Nicole Meyer (centre) in 2003. (Courtesy)
Adass Israel ultra-Orthodox girls school headmistress Malka Leifer (left) with her students, among them Nicole Meyer (centre) in 2003. (Courtesy)

THE Supreme Court saved the day as far as many in Australia and Israel are concerned. People can breathe easy again, reassured that Israel has an independent-minded Supreme Court, that was prepared to overturn the lower court’s ruling.

Related coverage: Leifer bail ruling overturned

But the fact that the Supreme Court has shown it is, in fact, prepared to overturn rulings of lower courts in the Malka Leifer affair could be a double-edged sword … because the Supreme Court will also be the address for Leifer’s lawyers to lodge an appeal if the lower court rules in favour of extradition. 

We still have a distance to go before an extradition ruling. We are waiting for a psychiatric panel to conclude in December whether Leifer is considered fit to stand trial for extradition. If the panel and the judge deem her fit, the court will sit to decide on whether she should be extradited. 

A decision in favour of extradition will almost certainly prompt Leifer’s lawyers to mount a challenge at the Supreme Court. They will cite all sorts of objections, including arguments that after all the drama, she could never face a fair trial in Australia. They are expected to cite media frenzy, antisemitism, and a charged atmosphere given the diplomatic interest in the case. 

It seems a long shot that the Supreme Court would accept such arguments, but it is possible, and if we have learned anything in the long years of the Leifer case, it is to expect the unexpected. Recent developments, with the Supreme Court taking longer to make the bail decision than anticipated and then overturning the lower court’s ruling, was a reminder that in Israel’s appeal system judges certainly take a fresh perspective and reach their own conclusions. 

And even if everything works out in the end, with the District Court approving extradition and appeals proving unsuccessful, we have just been reminded about the scale of the rollercoaster that lies ahead. 

Much as all the prosecution’s efforts are currently aimed at getting a District Court decision on extradition, once it comes, accusers will need to gird their strength for Supreme Court drama. And the anxiety that many will feel during the wait for this Supreme Court appeal could well be even more intense than that felt during the nail-biting wait for Judge
Anat Baron’s decision on bail.

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