The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday rejected a bid to stop the extradition of a British man accused of sexually abusing his 12-year-old stepdaughter in the UK over a decade ago, the Justice Ministry said.
The court rejected the appeal of the 2017 decision to hand over the 59-year-old British citizen to authorities in Britain, where he will face criminal prosecution for the alleged abuse, which took place between 2004 and 2006.
A statement from the Justice Ministry said the man is accused of repeatedly assaulting his stepdaughter at least once a week when she was 12 and 13.
The daughter told her mother about the assaults when she was 20. The man was arrested some time after that, but fled to Israel after British authorities released him on bail during the investigation.
He was seeking Israeli citizenship when he was arrested in November 2017 at the request of British authorities.
The identity of the stepfather and his victim were gagged by the court.
Last April, the Jerusalem District Court approved a British extradition request for the man to return to the UK for trial. He immediately appealed the decision, but the court on Sunday upheld the original ruling, the Justice Ministry statement said.
In recent years, child rights activists have warned that Israel is increasingly becoming a safe haven for pedophiles and sex offenders from Diaspora Jewish communities.
One of Israel’s founding pieces of legislation, the Law of Return, allows any Diaspora Jew to receive citizenship in Israel, usually within a short period of time. But activists say there is a dark loophole to the law that allows Jewish pedophiles to effectively flee criminal charges or court-mandated supervision in their home countries and move to Israel with a clean slate.
The most high-profile case in recent years involves a principal of a ultra-Orthodox school in Australia, who is has been accused of molesting dozens of her students. Malka Leifer is wanted by Australian authorities to face trial on 74 counts of child sex abuse, but the former principal fled to Israel in 2008 days before the charges against her were announced.
Australia officially filed an extradition request for Leifer in 2014. She was then arrested in Israel, but a court stopped the extradition process after a psychiatric assessment found that she was not fit to stand trial.
Leifer was ordered to remain under house arrest and report to court-approved psychiatrists every six months. However, last year, an anti-child abuse group hired a private investigator who produced video evidence allegedly showing that Leifer was feigning her mental illness.
The court is reexamining the psychiatric evaluations, with the next hearing scheduled for later in January.