News World Israel court delays release of former Melbourne school principal as premier weighs in

Israel court delays release of former Melbourne school principal as premier weighs in

Malka Leifer is wanted in Australia on 74 charges of child sex abuse. Photo: ABC News
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

A former Melbourne school principal accused of sexually abusing students will remain behind bars in Israel as a judge considers her move to house arrest.

Malka Leifer faces extradition to Australia on 74 charges of sexually assaulting female students during her time at Melbourne’s ultra-orthodox Adass Israel school.

The 52-year-old fled to Israel in 2008 after the allegations first emerged and the process to extradite her has stalled several times since charges were laid in 2013.

On Wednesday, Judge Rom Vinograd in the Jerusalem District Court ordered Leifer’s release from custody and that she be placed under house arrest. He allowed 48 hours for his decision to be appealed.

Early on Friday (AEST), Supreme Court Justice Anat Baron ordered that Leifer’s release be delayed as she considers appeals made by both the prosecution and defence.

Victim supporter Manny Waks attended the hearing and said he felt “cautiously optimistic” the judge will reverse Leifer’s release.

“I hope and expect that Leifer will remain in prison until the end of proceedings against her,” he said in a statement on Friday.

“Most importantly, Leifer will remain in jail for now.”

The court hearing comes after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, reiterating his view that Leifer must be extradited “in order to face the scrutiny of the criminal justice system in Australia”.

Mr Andrews said the decision to grant bail “defies explanation”.

“I am hopeful that in writing to you, the Israeli justice system can move quickly to right this wrong. Victims and their families deserve nothing less,” his letter read.

Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter said he would travel to Israel in coming months to raise the matter “personally and directly” with his counterpart.

“Given our request was made in 2013, the length of time that Israel is taking to finalise Australia’s extradition request is regrettable,” Mr Porter said in a statement.

“Ms Leifer is facing very serious criminal charges – it would be better for all involved that these charges are resolved.”

Three of the alleged abuse victims, Australian Citizens from Melbourne Elly Sapir (L), Dassi Ehrlich (C) and Nicole Meyers (R), all former students of Malka Leifer, at the District court of Jerusalem in March. Photo: AAP

Alleged victim Dassi Erlich described the bail ruling as a “massive betrayal of justice”.

“Given that we are all aware that Leifer is a flight risk, as well as the potential of her reoffending, this blatant disregard for the wellbeing of the Israeli community is outstanding,” she said in a statement to AAP.

Leifer’s bail conditions would include staying with an appointed family member, reporting to police and attending a medical facility for treatment.

Earlier, former Victorian premier Ted Baillieu called on the Federal Government to publicly denounce an Israeli court’s decision to grant bail to former Melbourne principal and alleged child sex abuser Malka Leifer.

Mr Baillieu has been supporting Ms Leifer’s alleged victims and tweeted in response to the house arrest ruling that Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne “must speak out” and that “Israeli justice is a farce!”.