Judge orders new psych test for teacher wanted in Australia

Judge orders new psych test for teacher wanted in Australia

Lawyers for Malka Leifer, accused of fleeing to Israel to escape sexual assault charges, say extradition request should be thrown out due to stress-induced panic attacks

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

The Adass Israel School in Melbourne, Australia (screen capture: Google Maps)
The Adass Israel School in Melbourne, Australia (screen capture: Google Maps)

The Jerusalem District Court has ordered an ultra-Orthodox woman wanted in Australia on sexual assault charges to undergo a second psychiatric evaluation, after she has repeatedly claimed to be mentally unfit to attend the extradition proceedings against her, a court spokesperson said Tuesday.

Malka Leifer, the former principal of the Adass Israel School in Melbourne, fled to Israel from Australia in 2008, days before allegations of sexual abuse against her surfaced.

She was taken into custody in 2014 at the request of Australian authorities, but was later released to house arrest where she awaits extradition to Australia to face 74 charges of sexual abuse of girls at the school.

The Australian extradition request has been heard by Judge Amnon Cohen at the Jerusalem District Court, but so far there have been no hearings in Leifer’s case due to stress-induced psychosis she claims prevents her from attending.

On Sunday, Cohen denied a petition to reject Australia’s extradition request due to her mental state.

Mental health professionals, including the Jerusalem district psychiatrist, previously confirmed that Leifer’s panic attacks prior to her scheduled court appearances were genuine and said the proceedings of a court hearing puts her under extreme anxiety.

During the hearing, Cohen questioned the timing of her hospitalizations and ordered that Leifer be re-evaluated by a senior state psychiatrist to resolve what he said were inconsistencies in defense.

Cohen demanded Leifer’s lawyers explain why Leifer’s psychiatrist referred her for hospitalization at Tel Hashomer’s psychiatric ward on December 30 of last year, just six days before a scheduled hearing date on January 5, 2016.

He also requested an explanation for why she did not appear at the hospital until January 3.

According to court documents, the hospital’s chief psychiatrist told the court during the hearing he noticed a difference in Leifer’s behavior in the ward, in therapy and during interactions with her family as compared to her behavior during formal reviews.

Cohen also noted that Leifer requested to be released from the hospital as soon as the court hearing in January was over, while state prosecutors charged Leifer expressed “no interest” in rehabilitation if her condition prevented her extradition to Australia.

Cohen ordered the re-evaluation to be completed by the end of the month, and convened the next hearing for March 20.

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