An Israeli court decided on Tuesday that a former Australian school principal accused of sexually assaulting students is mentally fit to stand trial, opening the way for her extradition to Australia, Israeli media reports said.
“The court has determined the defendant was simulating her inability to function and is fit to stand trial,” said the judges in a written statement, adding Leifer does not suffer from mental illness "in a legal sense."
“Therefore, we order for the extradition proceedings to be resumed.”
Malka Leifer had claimed mental illness in fighting her return to Australia, and the case has dragged on in Israel since 2014. Leifer, a former principal of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in Melbourne, has denied the allegations against her.
The Australian government welcomed the decision, saying the country is committed to bring Leifer to "stand trial on the 74 counts of child sexual abuse against her," said the official statement.
"Whilst today's decision can be appealed, it is a positive sign and means that formal extradition proceedings can now lawfully commence, subject to any orders relevant to any possible appeal," Attorney-General, Christian Porter, said.
"Celebration," said Manny Waks, an advocate for the victims, wrote on Facebook in a liveblog from the courtroom. "Goosebumps throughout my body."OMG!!!" wrote Dassi Ehrlich, one of Malka's alleged victims.
The suspect initially has been found fit to stand trial in her native Australia back in January, but a month later the Jerusalem District Court approved a request made by Leifer's attorneys, allowing them to contest the psychiatric experts.
Attorney Yehuda Freed added at this stage it is not possible to launch another appeal since this is an interim decision. "When a decision is made on her extradition, we intend to appeal both the extradition and the ruling that finds her fit for trial."
The hearing on her extradition is set to be held on July 20.