A former Melbourne school principal wanted on 74 charges of child sexual abuse has appeared before an Israeli court, nearly four years after she was first summoned to extradition proceedings.
Australia has been trying to extradite the woman since 2013, but the 54-year-old has claimed she has panic attacks, anxiety and is too unwell to attend court.
Israeli police re-arrested her yesterday, accusing her of faking a mental illness to avoid extradition.
On Tuesday at the Petah Tikva Magistrates court, the former principal appeared in court for the first time, covering her face with her hands and crying.
An Israeli police investigator showed the judge video they filmed of the accused, saying their undercover operation had collected “lots of material that shows she was faking being mentally unwell”.
Yehuda Fried, the lawyer for the accused, challenged the police evidence.
“She was followed when she was just living her daily life,” Mr Fried told reporters outside the court.
These kinds of things any normal people does, even a mentally ill person when they are not suffering from stress. Mentally ill people can also act normally.”
But Mr Fried did confirm to the court that the accused’s panic attacks and anxiety occurred specifically around the time of each court date and psychiatric examinations.
He argued that his client was under great stress, was suffering PTSD and is still too ill to attend proceedings.
The accused’s lawyer also suggested Israeli police were acting in response to political pressure from Australia.
“The motive to reopen this case was only to satisfy Australian authorities,” he said.
“There was no new evidence presented to the court that showed obstruction or the faking of evidence.”
Judge Erez Milamid noted that it was a “normal reaction” to be stressed around a court date.
He ruled that the former principal will remain in police custody for another 24 hours.
Manny Waks, an Australian-Israeli advocate for abused children, attended the proceedings.
He told the ABC the alleged victims were elated that the accused had fronted court after such a long time.
“From our perspective we are back on the road to justice,” Mr Waks told the ABC outside court.
“It was very powerful to see her in the dock. It’s the first time that has happened.
“When her lawyer was arguing that she had chronic depression and PTSD, my heart went out to her alleged victims who are all suffering different forms of the same symptoms.
“My preference is to look after their welfare.”
Officials from the Australian embassy also attended the hearing.
The former principal faces a second hearing on Wednesday in Jerusalem’s district court in regards to the extradition case.