Extradited ex-Melbourne school principal Malka Leifer has touched down on Australian soil to face child sexual abuse charges, 13 years after allegedly fleeing to Israel.
A commercial flight from Singapore with Leifer on board landed at Melbourne airport at 8.44pm on Wednesday.
The former educator, head of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls’ school in Elsternwick from 2003 to 2008, was accompanied by Victoria police and taken into 14-day quarantine.
She will be regularly tested for COVID-19 over that time.
Australia’s Attorney-General Christian Porter noted her arrival marked the end of a long and complicated extradition process.
“The arrival of Ms Leifer in Australia will bring relief to alleged victims who have waited many years for this moment,” Mr Porter said in a statement.
“It is now important that the legal processes are allowed to proceed in Victoria without commentary which could affect that process.”
Leifer will face Melbourne Magistrates Court via a video link on Thursday for her first appearance.
It is expected 74 charges of child rape and sexual abuse stemming from her years as principal at the Orthodox Adass Israel School will be formalised during the filing hearing.
She has previously denied all allegations.
An exact time is yet to be set for the hearing.
Wednesday’s flight was the final leg of Leifer’s extradition from Israel, long-awaited by former students and sisters Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper, who filed police reports in 2011.
It began with her boarding a Frankfurt-bound plane at Tel Aviv on Monday, just hours before the closure of Israel’s airports due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Pictures published by local media showed Leifer about to board a flight wearing handcuffs and legcuffs.
Ahead of her arrival, Victoria’s former attorney-general Martin Pakula welcomed news of Leifer’s extradition after a protracted legal battle.
“I’m sure those people who have been agitating and clamouring for her to return will be very pleased that at long last her day in court will come,” he said on Wednesday.
“I’m very pleased that has occurred.”
Long-time victim supporter Manny Waks said it is unclear how long her case will take to progress through Victoria’s legal system given its COVID-driven backlog.
Israel’s Supreme Court approved her extradition order in December.
Leifer’s final failed appeal followed 74 hearings in Israeli courts, which were drawn out on the basis of her claims of mental illness.
After fleeing Australia in 2008, she was first arrested in Israel in 2014 only to be freed from house arrest on the condition she undertook psychiatric assessments.
An independent undercover investigation proved Leifer was feigning mental illness and she was re-arrested 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.