Social Issues

Ex-ultra-Orthodox Australian school headmaster to be tried over abuse

Sydney, Australia, Sep 23 (EFE).- The former director of a Jewish school in Australia will be tried in a Melbourne court after being accused of committing 70 sexual abuse crimes against minors between 2004 and 2008.

During a Thursday hearing, Judge Johanna Metcalf said there is enough evidence to judge former ultra-Orthodox Director Malka Leifer of the girls’ school after hearing the testimonies of alleged victims and witnesses. The next court session is scheduled for Oct. 21.

Leifer, 55, who arrived in Australia from Israel in January after a lengthy extradition process, pleaded not guilty Thursday during a hearing she attended virtually from the Melbourne prison where she is being held, reports the public channel ABC.

The defendant was a teacher and director of the Melbourne Jewish school Adas Israel until 2008, when the first allegations of abuse began to surface, prompting her to leave for Israel. An Australian arrest warrant was issued in 2012, and a request for extradition to Israel in 2014.

She was then placed under house arrest and in 2016 a judicial psychiatrist ruled she was ill and could not stand trial, which stopped the extradition process.

A year later, private investigators showed she led a normal life in Jerusalem and another subsequent psychiatric panel said Lefeir had faked mental illness, which set the process in motion again.

At least eight alleged victims have testified against Leifer, who has lived relatively normally for years in Jerusalem and in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Emmanuel. EFE


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