Leifer ‘fit for trial’ but delays loom

Malka Leifer appears in an Israeli court. Photo: AP

FOR the first time since Malka Leifer allegedly sexually abused children in Melbourne, a court-appointed psychiatrist has determined she is fit to stand trial.

However the announcement this week was soured by further delays, with some estimating Leifer may not face extradition for up to two years.

Nonetheless, the psychiatrist’s determination was a huge development in the four-year campaign to bring the former Adass principal back to Australia.

In a Jerusalem courtroom on Tuesday (February 27), the prosecution claimed that the new psychiatrist’s report was enough to push forward with extradition proceedings, however Leifer’s defence team claimed that the prosecution can’t proceed because they haven’t provided all the evidence of the case.

The judge accepted the request from the defence team, and Leifer will remain behind bars in a psychiatric facility while her defence team looks at the evidence.

Leifer’s defence lawyer Yehuda Fried told The AJN this week “the trial will take some years”.

His demands will include another opinion from the district psychiatrist as the latest one, he claims, represents a “very big mistake”, and insistence that experts from “all the investigations” are questioned.

The slow process of the case can be attributed to both sides, with revelations that the district psychiatrist forgot to sign the report on the state of Leifer’s mental health under observation during the last fortnight.

The court failed to pick up the error, and as a result it was easily challenged by Fried in court.

Alleged victim Dassi Erlich said that she welcomed the psychiatric assessment, but is frustrated by the continual delays.

“We are disappointed by another delay tactic, but we won’t be giving up and this is far from over,” Erlich told The AJN.

The sentiment was echoed by shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus who said, “I am disappointed by this further delay. This has gone on far too long already. My Labor colleagues and I will continue to press for the extradition of Malka Leifer to face justice here in Australia.”

There were two hearings on Tuesday.

The first in relation to the extradition request, which was put off for another month, and the second regarding bail.

In the second hearing, the judge rejected the idea of house arrest and kept her in a psychiatric institution.

Leifer’s next hearing will be held in two weeks’ time, to determine if she should stay in the institution.

Another hearing on the extradition is expected in a month.

NATHAN JEFFAY in Jerusalem