‘Leifer functions like a normal woman’

Malka Leifer appears in an Israeli court. Photo: AP

A private investigator who tracked alleged sex-offender Malka Leifer has said that during the two weeks he and his associates followed her they did not witness anything that would indicate she does not function like a normal person.

Leifer is standing trial for extradition on 74 counts of child sexual abuse in Australia, but has for many years claimed to be mentally unfit for extradition.

The 51st hearing in the case to determine if she is indeed fit to stand extradition trial was scheduled for Sunday morning at the Jerusalem District Court, but the defence and prosecution teams agreed that the private investigators and other witnesses slated to give evidence could do so by written submission without cross-examination.

A new hearing was scheduled for Wednesday this week.

Only once the proceedings to determine whether Leifer is fit to stand extradition trial are completed can extradition proceedings themselves begin, if indeed the judge rules she is fit to stand trial.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, one of the witnesses, private investigator Tzafrir Tzahi who carried out a private investigation into Leifer in 2017, said that his team had observed Leifer for two weeks and that her behaviour and functioning seemed perfectly normal.

“During the investigation we saw that she was functioning like a normative woman and mother,” said Tzahi.

“She does the shopping, hosts her children on Shabbat, goes to the grocery store, goes to the post office, speaks a lot on the cell phone, laughs, converses with people, nothing that could indicate a problem with her daily functioning,” he continued, adding that they had also witnessed her writing checks and paying bills.

Tzahi noted that Leifer does not work, but that she occasionally goes to Bnei Brak, alone by public transport, for various arrangements and also to meet with one of her children.

He also stated that during the entire two weeks his team had tracked her, they had not seen her husband once.

Attorney Yehuda Fried who is representing Lefier told the Post in response that Leifer’s mental health problems do not prevent her from basic functioning such as shopping, traveling, and other such activities, but that stressful situations can lead to an eruption of her symptoms which severely debilitate her.

He added that prison officials who have observed Leifer, who has been incarcerated since February 2018, have stated that her mental health has been deficient during her time in prison.

Manny Waks, founder and director of the Kol V’Oz campaign group, said that the long length of the legal proceedings against Leifer in which extradition hearings themselves are yet to begin has “made a farce of the Israeli system in the eyes of many around the world.”

Leifer fled Australia to come to Israel in 2008, but legal proceedings against her only began in 2014. Following the private investigation into her conducted on behalf of the Jewish Community Watch Organisation, the police began its own investigation and arrested Leifer in 2018 on suspicion of feigning mental illness to avoid extradition.

“This ongoing saga needs to be wrapped up as soon as possible. It is continuing to raise questions regarding Israel’s judicial process, and is detrimentally impacting Israel’s international reputation. Of course, due process must be followed – but Leifer and her supporters must also not be allowed to have undue influence and to dictate terms,” said Waks.

He added that the police are currently investigating alleged interference in the legal proceedings against Leifer by Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who is now under police investigation for allegedly threatening to fire health ministry officials if they did not produce a psychiatric evaluation declaring Leifer to be unfit for extradition.

Litzman has denied any wrongdoing.

“Due process is critical, but we need to ensure that justice is happening and that there aren’t any external parties impacting the case as we have seen in the past,” said Waks.