Fugitive teacher dumped by legal team

 

Fugitive teacher Malka Leifer has been dumped by her lawyers ahead of a crucial extradition appeal hearing in Israel.

The former principal at Melbourne's ultraorthodox Adass Israel school was wanted on 74 charges of sexual abuse.

Firebrand lawyer Tal Gabay revealed he had dumped Leifer's case just days before a crucial December 3 appeal hearing at the Supreme Court of Israel.

He has been an advocate for Leifer for six years, with the case being dragged before the court more than 70 times.

Judge Miriam Lomp in September finally decided that Leifer, who had claimed she was too mentally unwell to travel, should be sent to Australia to face justice.

Mr Gabay, who advocated for Leifer along with Yehuda Fried, said the pair would no longer represent her.

Lawyer Tal Gabay announced he has stopped representing Malka Leifer. Picture: Ella Pellegrini
Lawyer Tal Gabay announced he has stopped representing Malka Leifer. Picture: Ella Pellegrini

"Gabay and Fried have decided that they will not continue to represent it because it is a "side issue to the long and ongoing process of questioning her mental capacity," a translation of a report in Israel's Globes newspaper on Friday said.

One of the lawyers had shouted in the courtroom foyer following a hearing in January that "it wasn't over until it's over" but the latest move has shown a change of tack.

Melbourne sisters Nicole Meyer, Dassi Erlich and Elly Sapper made accusations against Leifer in 2008.

The teacher fled the country shortly after the sisters complained to their school.

There were hopes that Leifer could be sent back to Australia as soon as January if the court dismissed her appeal.

Manny Waks, chief executive of Jewish sexual abuse survivors group VoiCSA, said that the lawyers' departure was significant.

"In the Supreme Court's most recent ruling relating to Leifer's mental fitness, the same three-panel of judges who will preside at the next appeal said that proceedings had dragged out 'much beyond what is reasonable'," he said.

"As I've repeatedly stated, it's been clear to practically everyone following this case - including countless experts - that Leifer has taken the Israeli judicial system for a major ride. It's time for this charade to finally end."

Israel's president Reuven Rivlin told Prime Minister Scott Morrison in May that the country would not allow anyone to "use its institutions to evade justice."

The Israeli government must sign off on Leifer's extradition.

Originally published as Fugitive teacher dumped by legal team


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