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Extradited Israeli accused of sexual abuse appears in Australian court

Sydney, Australia, Jan 28 (efe-epa).- The former director of a Jewish school in Australia, the ultra-Orthodox Malka Leifer, accused of 74 counts of sexual abuse, appeared Thursday before a court in Melbourne, 13 years after fleeing to Israel, a country where she fought extradition since 2014.

Leifer, who pleads not guilty to the charges against her for the rape and sexual abuse of three sisters who studied at the Adass Israel Jewish school between 2001 and 2008, feigned mental illness during her trial in Israel to avoid extradition to Australia.

The 54-year-old woman appeared via video call Thursday before the Melbourne Magistrates Court, where her lawyer, Tony Hargreaves, argued that she suffers from “significant mental problems” and needs “special arrangements” in prison due to her religious beliefs, according to local news outlet ABC.

Leifer arrived Wednesday night from Israel, is serving a mandatory 14-day quarantine at an undisclosed location and will later be transferred to prison.

At the hearing it was determined that the next preliminary hearing will be held on Apr. 9, a period in which she will continue to be detained.

Leifer 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, leading to an arrest warrant in 2012, and an extradition request to Australian two years later.

She was 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 ruled that Lefeir had faked mental illness, restarting the judicial process.

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


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