World / Crime & Legal

Israel court releases Australia pedophile suspect to home arrest

AFP-JIJI

An Israeli court on Wednesday released to house arrest an ultra-Orthodox Israeli woman sought by Australia over accusations of sexually abusing girls under her care there.

Jerusalem district court judge Ram Winograd said Malka Leifer could be released from custody while she awaits a decision on her extradition.

She was assigned to house arrest at the home of her sister in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, where she would remain under the supervision of a guarantor.

The judge gave prosecutors 48 hours to appeal the decision before it takes effect.

The decision comes less than two weeks after a different judge in the same court ordered a panel of experts to examine Leifer’s psychiatric evaluation of whether she is mentally fit to stand trial in Australia.

In the Sept. 23 decision, judge Chana Lomp said the doctors who had conducted the evaluation did not take into account a number of factors, such as previous medical assessments and input from the family.

Leifer is accused of child sex abuse while she was a teacher and principal at an ultra-Orthodox Jewish school for girls in Melbourne, where she had relocated from her native Israel.

She is fighting her extradition to Australia, claiming to be mentally unfit to be deported and stand trial.

Tal Gabay, a lawyer for Leifer, said the Wednesday decision “speaks for itself.”

“We’re sure that the extradition processes will totally cease down the road,” he said in a statement.

Dassi Erlich, one of the women accusing Leifer of sexually abusing her, called the ruling “intolerable,” saying it left her and other victims “reeling.”

“Given that we are all aware that Leifer is a flight risk as well as the potential of her reoffending, this blatant disregard for the well-being of the Israeli community and her victims is outstanding,” she wrote on her Facebook page.