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Leifer extradition: defence claims students effectively consented to abuse

TJI Pick
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Published: 21 July 2020

Last updated: 4 March 2024

At her extradition hearing overnight, prosecution rebukes the claims, arguing former principal had total control over alleged victims; defence says media has turned Leifer ‘into a monster', making it impossible for her to get a fair trial in Australia

Defence at extradition hearing: Leifer’s students effectively consented to abuse (Times of Israel)
At a long-awaited extradition hearing for Malka Leifer on Monday, the defence team of the former headmaster at an Australian school sought to argue that those who accuse their client of sexual abuse had effectively consented to it.

Defence attorney Nick Kaufman argued that the three sisters accusing his client were around or even over the consenting age of 18 when the alleged abuse took place. He did not state specifically that the allegations were true, but argued that even if they were, there were holes in their stories, which should prevent Leifer from being extradited.

Dismissing the alleged power-dynamic between the then-teenage students and their former principal at the Adass Israel ultra-Orthodox all-girls high school, Kaufman asserted that Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elie Sapper continued meeting Leifer privately and that two of them never tried to resist the alleged abuse.

State prosecutor Matan Akiva flatly rejected the claims, saying the alleged victims were in no place to say “no” to Leifer and that their principal had total control over them. Moreover, he argued that the nature of their ultra-Orthodox community in Melbourne left the girls without the tools to be able to cope with such abuse.

Israeli court discusses extradition of accused pedophile Malka Leifer to Australia (Haaretz)
Attorney Nick Kaufman, one of the lawyers representing Leifer, said at the beginning of the hearing that if the court rules that Leifer is subject to extradition, they will appeal the decision, which would draw out proceedings in the case for at least few more months.

Kaufman claimed there are a number of reasons as to why Leifer should not be extradited, including that she will not receive a fair trial in Australia if she is. “After the court in Israel ruled that she was pretending [to be mentally unfit to stand trial], this will influence the jury in Australia,” he said. “In light of the widespread reports in the global media, she will not receive a fair trial in Australia.”

Malka Leifer appears before Israeli court in extradition case (Guardian)
Half way through Monday’s hearing, Leifer complained she was feeling ill and was excused by the judges.

For the extradition case, Leifer’s legal team has hired Nick Kaufman, a former international criminal court prosecutor who has also defended many extradition cases in Israeli courts.

He argued that intense public focus on Leifer’s case in Australia would hamper her right to a fair trial – which will be decided by a jury – and presumption of innocence.

“There is hardly a day that this case is not in the media - on television in Israel, Australia and around the world. Malka Leifer was turned into a monster,” he told the court. Kaufman has defended many high-profile figures including members of the Gaddafi family as well as a Bosnian Serb alleged to have taken part in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

“The man who was on trial for extradition on charges of murdering a thousand people in Bosnia did not suffer from such media coverage,” Kaufman said.

Photo: Malka Leifer (C) refuses to raise her head while appearing over Skype during an extradition hearing at the Jerusalem District Court on July 20 (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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