News Defence lawyer implies Malka Leifer’s alleged victims consented to sexual abuse

Defence lawyer implies Malka Leifer’s alleged victims consented to sexual abuse

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Defence lawyers for alleged paedophile Malka Leifer have told an Israeli court she should not be extradited because her alleged victims consented to the abuse.

The former principal of Melbourne’s Adass Israel Girls School appeared in the Jerusalem District Court via video link for a hearing on whether she should be returned to Australia to face 74 charges of sexual abuse against three former students.

Her lawyers argued against extradition on several grounds, including that because the 1976 extradition treaty between Israel and Australia does not explicitly cover the crime of sexual assault, it does not apply to their client.

Defence lawyer Nick Kaufman also questioned whether some of the alleged abuse was a crime under Israeli law, because it occurred when two of the alleged victims were no longer children and could have rebuffed the sexual advances, implying they consented.

He raised concerns that Ms Leifer, a strict ultra-orthodox Jew, would not have her religious needs accommodated in an Australian prison.

Mr Kaufman was also concerned extensive media coverage had reduced the chances of a fair trial under Victoria’s jury system.

“The media have turned her into a monster,” he said outside court.

“Just as the allegations need to be proven in a court of law in Australia, Mrs Malka Leifer is also entitled to the presumption of innocence and that has been completely trounced upon on this case.”

Ms Leifer’s lawyers have argued two of the alleged victims could have resisted their principal’s sexual advances. Photo: ABC

Ms Leifer’s lawyers also mentioned the high-level political attention the case had received, alleging potential interference in the extradition.

Israel Police have said there was political interference — but in favour of Ms Leifer.

They recommended indicting the former deputy health minister, Yaakov Litzman, who is from the same ultra-orthodox sect, for interfering in the case to stop the extradition.

Israeli prosecutors arguing for the extradition said the treaty had broader scope to include the alleged offences and that Victoria’s Corrective Services already had custody of an ultra-orthodox prisoner, meaning they could provide kosher food and accommodate other religious requirements.

They told the court the question of consent could be argued at trial but was irrelevant to the extradition process.

Ms Leifer’s alleged victims said they were upset her defence lawyers had suggested they could have consented to her sexual advances.

“There was a lot of victim-shaming today that went on in the court,” alleged victim Nicole Meyer told the ABC.

“While that is expected in these type of cases… the fact that there was so much discussion around the issue of consent when it comes to sexual abuse was very disheartening that this is still happening in 2020 in the courts.”

Sisters Elly Sapper, Dassi Erlich and Nicole Meyer have accused Ms Leifer of sexually abusing them as children. Photo: AAP

The case has been adjourned until September 21, when the judge is expected to return with a decision.

In the meantime, Israel’s Supreme Court will hear an appeal from Ms Leifer’s lawyers on July 29 against the District Court’s ruling that she has been faking mental illness to avoid extradition.