A woman wanted in Australia on 74 charges of sex abuse, including rape, while teaching in a Jewish school may be sent to house arrest after an Israeli court on Wednesday ruled that she could stay with a prominent rabbi who vouched for her.
Last week, a court said that it would delay consideration of whether to extradite her until a psychiatrist can review her case. Her name is gagged in Israel by court order because she has not been accused of committing a crime in the country.
Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, well-known among mainstream Israelis for his philanthropic work, served as a character witness for the defendant in the Jerusalem District Court, saying that “for her to be in custody is a humiliation.” He offered to host her in house arrest at his home, adding that if she left the house “for even a second, we will take her straight to the police immediately,” according to the Brisbane Times.
The judge agreed to release her to Grossman’s custody in the town of Migdal Haemek, prompting harsh criticism from an activist who wants to see her extradited to Australia and held to account.
However the state prosecutor quickly appealed the ruling. The suspect will remain under psychiatric care pending a decision on the appeal, scheduled for Friday. Her bail was set at NIS 100,000.
Dassi Erlich, who has accused the woman of abusing her when she was a pupil, issued an angry statement after the court decision was announced.
The woman “has been released on bail based on some random rabbi’s testimony that he will supervise her,” Erlich charged on Facebook. “If Rabbi Grossman can have a voice, someone who is not a part of this case at all, where is our voice?!”
Grossman received the Israel Prize in 2004 and the Presidential Medal of Distinction in 2013 for having rehabilitated tens of thousands of disadvantaged children through his educational work, which began in 1972. He was twice offered the position of chief rabbi of Israel, but declined in order to focus on his position as head of the Migdal Haemek yeshiva.
Australia wants the woman extradited for allegedly sexually abusing children while she was a teacher at a local school, Adass Israel.
Israeli police have said she is feigning mental illness to avoid extradition.
Her lawyer, Yehuda Fried, said last week that the court ruled she should be dealt with “in the realm of mental illness.” Fried said that likely meant a years-long process before her extradition can be reconsidered.
But Israel’s Court Administration later said that the court will convene again on March 28 after a psychiatric evaluation has been carried out, indicating an extradition decision could be taken sooner.
She was arrested following an undercover investigation at Interpol’s request and is suspected of obstructing Israeli court proceedings by attempting to hide evidence.
A court previously stopped extradition proceedings after determining she was not fit to stand trial.