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Alleged abuser Leifer set for Aust arrival

Former Melbourne school principal Malka Leifer is hours away from completing her long-awaited extradition from Israel to face child sexual abuse charges.

She was handed over to Australian authorities and was en route via Frankfurt on Monday, longtime victim supporter Manny Waks confirmed to AAP.

Leifer left Tel Aviv earlier in the day, just hours before the closure of Israel’s airports due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pictures published by local media show her about to board a flight wearing handcuffs and legcuffs.

Leifer is expected to touch down at Melbourne airport aboard a connecting flight as early as Tuesday night, according to multiple reports.

She is wanted in Australia on 74 charges of child rape and sexual abuse stemming from her time as principal at Melbourne’s Orthodox Addas Israel School.

A Victorian government spokesperson said on Tuesday they welcomed Leifer’s extradition.

“Our position has always been clear – Malka Leifer needs to return to Victoria to face these very serious allegations,” the spokesperson said.

“Our thoughts are with the people who have continued to advocate for her return and we acknowledge how significant this next step is for them.

“As this matter is before the courts, it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

Leifer will go into hotel quarantine for 14 days once she returns to Melbourne. It is believed she could virtually appear before Melbourne Magistrates Court as early as this week for an initial hearing.

As is her right, Leifer will be entitled to apply for bail.

Mr Waks said it was unclear how long her case would take to progress through Victoria’s legal system given its COVID-driven backlog.

“We expect that Leifer’s return to Australia will impact many people,” the chief executive of victim support group VoiCSA said in a statement.

“VoiCSA remains committed to helping anyone who may have been sexually abused by Leifer.”

Israel’s Supreme Court approved her extradition order in December and Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn approved the order the following day.

In a tweet, Mr Nissenkorn wrote on Monday: “I promised that I would not hinder the extradition order, and that’s what I have done. Malka Leifer’s victims will finally earn an act of justice.”

Leifer’s final failed appeal followed 74 hearings in Israeli courts, which have been drawn out on the basis of her mental illness claims.

She fled Australia to Israel in 2008 when the allegations arose, using a plane ticket allegedly paid for by the Addas School.

Leifer was first arrested in Israel in 2014 and placed under house arrest, only to be freed again on the condition she undertook psychiatric assessments.

Following an independent undercover investigation that proved she was feigning mental illness and going about her life as normal, Leifer was arrested again in 2018.

Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said it was a “travesty” it had taken so long for Leifer to return.

“While it’s a relief that Israel’s justice system has finally prevailed, the time and process that resulted in these delays are completely unacceptable,” he added.

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