After years of legal battles to avoid extradition, former school principal Malka Leifer is being extradited to Australia from Israel to face child sexual abuse charges.
Ms. Leifer, 54, is accused of 74 counts of rape and sexual abuse that investigators say took place between 2004 and 2008, when she was the principal of the Adass Israel School for ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls in Melbourne.
She left Australia for Israel in 2008 after allegations were raised and has since faced more than 70 extradition hearings in Israel.
Ms. Leifer fought her extradition, claiming she was mentally unfit to stand trial, but Israel’s Supreme Court rejected her final appeal last December.
Australia tried to get Israel to extradite Ms. Leifer between 2014 and 2016, but the attempt failed after she was found mentally unfit for trial.
Undercover private investigators later filmed her shopping and depositing a cheque at a bank, leading Israeli authorities to re-arrest her in 2018.
Last year, a Jerusalem district court judge found that Ms. Leifer had been “impersonating someone with mental illness” to avoid extradition and that she should be sent to Australia to stand trial.
She appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court, but it upheld the ruling. “All who seek to evade justice shall know that they will not find a place of refuge in Israel,” the justices wrote in a unanimous decision.
An organisation representing her alleged victims said it was “an incredible day for justice”.
Photographs published by Israeli media appeared to show prison officials leading Ms. Leifer to a plane at Ben Gurion airport early on Monday.
The Ynet news website reported that her ankles and wrists were shackled, and that she was met on board by Australian law enforcement officials.
She was flying to Melbourne via Frankfurt, Germany. Israel’s justice ministry and Ms. Leifer’s lawyer later confirmed that she had been extradited.
A spokesman for Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter said that the Australian government “does not comment on logistics involving extradition arrangements against individuals until the extradition process has been concluded”, according to Reuters news agency.
Voice against Child Sex Abuse (VoiCSA), an Australian organisation representing her alleged victims, said in a statement: “So many people have been involved to ensure this day would finally arrive. Regrettably, many have also been involved in trying to ensure this day would never arrive – despite their significant efforts, they have failed.”
“We can now truly look forward to Leifer facing justice in Australia on the 74 charges she is facing.”
VoiCSA said it expected Ms. Leifer to be held in custody until a committal hearing took place.
“The matter is then likely to proceed to trial, or to sentencing if a deal is made before then. Given the current delays in the legal system due to COVID-19, it is unclear how long the process will take.” (Source: BBC)