- Malaka Leffer, the former principal of Melbourne’s ultra-Orthodox Edas Israel School for Girls, has been found guilty of sexually abusing two girls.
- Leffer abused the two sisters between 2003 and 2007 while she was working as their principal.
- The sisters told the court that Leffer’s abuse had broken their ability to trust and was painful to remember.
A former principal of an Australian Jewish school will be sentenced on August 24 after being found guilty of sexually abusing two female students.
Judge Mark Gamble made Friday’s third day of submissions to decide what sentence Malika Leffer should receive following her conviction by a Victoria state jury in early April.
Leffer’s conviction is likely the final chapter in a widening battle that has tested Israeli-Australian relations over efforts to bring the 56-year-old Israeli national to justice.
The jury found Leffer abused sisters Dessie Erlik and Ellie Saper between 2003 and 2007 when she was principal of the ultra-Orthodox Edas Israel School for Girls in Melbourne.
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Erlik was 14 and Saper was 12 when Leffer arrived at the school from Israel in 2000, first as head of religion.
The sisters told the court last month that Leffer’s sexual abuse had broken their ability to trust and was painful to remember.
The Associated Press does not typically identify victims of sexual abuse, but the sisters have chosen to identify themselves in the media.
Leffer returned to Israel in 2008 after the allegations surfaced and fought Australia’s extradition request through Jerusalem courts from 2014 until January 2021, when she was flown from Israel with her wrists and ankles shackled.
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The Tel Aviv-born mother of eight has been in custody since returning to Australia and has denied all charges.
He was convicted of six counts of rape, each carrying up to 25 years in prison. He was convicted of three counts of sexual penetration of a child, each carrying a possible 10-year sentence, and six counts of indecent assault, which also carries a 10-year sentence. He was also convicted of three counts of indecency with a child, which carries a five-year prison sentence. There are no minimum sentences.
In deciding the appropriate sentence, Gamble will take into account the 52 days he spent in Israeli custody and the 608 days under house arrest before returning to Australia.
Prosecutor Justin Lewis had argued that Leffer deserved less credit for the time he spent in custody in Israel because he allegedly delayed the extradition process for years by claiming mental illness.
Prosecutors submitted to Gamble rulings from Israel’s Supreme Court and the Jerusalem District Court that found him mentally fit to stand trial.
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The courts’ rulings were based on psychiatric reports that Leffer had feigned mental illness to avoid extradition.
Israeli psychiatrists accepted that Lefer had suffered from adjustment disorder, anxiety and depression since her arrest, Gamble said.
But neither the courts nor psychiatrists considered whether those circumstances influenced his decision to exaggerate his mental illness to avoid extradition, Gamble said.