Former head of Jewish ultra-orthodox school detained over child sex abuse charges

Malka Leifer is facing 74 charges of sexual abuse including rape, indecent assault and sexual penetration

The Independent, UK/April 9, 2021

By Namita Singh

The former principal of a Jewish ultra-orthodox school, accused of sexually abusing her students, was produced before a court in Australia and will remain in custody ahead of her pre-trial hearing.

Malka Leifer, a dual Israeli-Australian national, appeared before the Melbourne magistrate court via a video link on Friday, almost six weeks after she was extradited from Israel.

Faced with 74 charges of sexually abusing children, including multiple counts of rape, indecent assault and sexual penetration, Ms Leifer had fled Australia for Israel after the allegations surfaced in 2008.

Making her second appearance before the court since being extradited from Israel, Ms Leifer appeared by video link from Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, a women’s prison, wearing a blue jumper, a white shirt and a white head covering.

She spoke only once, to confirm that she could hear the proceedings and did not move an application for bail.

Set to commence on 13 September, her five-day committal hearing will determine whether there is sufficient evidence against Ms Leifer to stand trial. The court was informed that ten witnesses would be called to test the evidence against her.

Three sisters -- Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper -- had publicly identified themselves as her victims, alleging she abused them when they were students at the Adass Israel School.

According to court documents, out of 74 counts of sexual abuse, 11 counts consist of rape, 47 of indecent assault, 13 of committing an indecent act with a child and three of sexually penetrating a minor, reported the Guardian.

Most of the charges are linked to the period she served as principal of the Adass Israel School, with the earliest charge dating back to 1 January 2004 and final charges to March 2008.

She was brought to the country in late January from Israel, where she had fled in March 2008. The authorities filed charges against her in 2012 and requested her extradition in 2014.

It was after more than 70 extradition hearings over a course of six years that the authorities managed to successfully bring her back to the country.

Earlier extradition attempts had failed after an Israeli court found her to be mentally unfit to stand trial. It was when private investigators filmed her going about her daily life that Israel authorities started investigating whether she was feigning mental illness.

The court rejected her appeal in December and found her fit to be extradited to Australia.

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