Decision delayed on accused paedophile teacher
Accused Australian paedophile schoolteacher Malka Leifer has avoided coming face-to-face with three of her alleged victims after a court in Jerusalem ruled her attendance would be bad for her mental health.
The three sisters - Dassi Erlich, 31, Elly Sapper, 29, and Nicole Meyer, 33 - have all flown to Israel to confront Leifer over the allegations, 10 years after their former school principal fled Melbourne on a one-way ticket on the day she found out complaints had been lodged against her.
The three women, led by Ms Erlich, have campaigned bravely for the past decade to have Leifer returned to Australia, where she is wanted on 74 allegations of sexually abusing students at the Adass Israel School, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in suburban Melbourne.
However, the case was adjourned overnight until January, when two more psychiatrists will be called to give evidence.
By then, the case will have been running for 11 months without any resolution on the question of whether Leifer is mentally able to face an extradition court.
If the Jerusalem District Court deems her well enough to face those proceedings, she is likely to be sent to Australia, where she will face charges.
She remains in prison.
In an unusual move the court on Monday granted a request by Leifer's lawyer to have the hearing closed to media.
The court then went further and agreed to a request by Leifer's lawyer, Yehuda Frid, that Leifer not attend the court hearing overnight, on the grounds it would be damaging for her mental health.
Mr Frid produced a medical certificate testifying that Leifer, who has been in custody since February, would suffer mental harm if she had to appear.
The decision devastated the three sisters, who had not seen their former mentor and school principal in the 10 years since they lodged complaints against her.
They have all agreed to waive their right to anonymity as they continue to campaign for Leifer to face the allegations in Australia.
"We are extremely upset,'' Ms Erlich told News Corp after hearing of the court's decision to allow Leifer to avoid appearing.
"We wanted a reversal of that position we were in 10 years ago.
"We thought there would be some closure.''
Leifer has successfully avoided extradition to Australia for 10 years by repeatedly convincing the court she was too mentally unwell to face extradition proceedings.
She was sheltered in an Orthodox Jewish community in the West Bank named Immanuel, and told the court she was virtually housebound and non-communicative.
But in February, Israeli police charged her with faking her illness, and hauled her before the court, where she remains in custody.
The extradition proceedings, and the local charges of faking her illness, have been on hold since her lawyers launched yet another challenge on the grounds of her mental health.
The charges were laid after an advocacy group for survivors of sexual abuse, Jewish Community Watch, obtained undercover video of Leifer shopping, catching the bus and apparently living a normal life.
Police then infiltrated the secretive community and conducted surveillance, then arrested the mother-of-eight and dragged her away screaming.