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Top Israeli court nixes house arrest for Australian sex-crime suspect

Top Israeli court nixes house arrest for Australian sex-crime suspect
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JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s Supreme Court overturned on Thursday a lower court order that a former Australian school principal suspected of sexual assault, and who Australia is seeking to extradite, be released from prison to house arrest.

Malka Leifer poses a flight risk and should remain behind bars until extradition proceedings conclude, Justice Anat Baron ruled, finding in favour of prosecutors’ appeal against the Jerusalem District Court’s Oct. 2 order.

Leifer fled from Australia in 2008 with what Australian authorities believe was the assistance of the insular Adass Jewish community, after accusations against her surfaced.

A former principal of Adass Israel School, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls’ school in Melbourne, Leifer is wanted by Australian police on 74 sexual assault charges, including rape, involving girls at the institution.

The district court ruled in 2016 that Leifer, who has denied the charges, was mentally unfit to face extradition and trial.

She was re-arrested in 2018 after a police investigation raised questions about the state of her health.

Last month, the district court, in considering extradition, said more psychiatric evidence was needed before it could decide the issue, and ordered a new panel of experts to assess Leifer’s mental condition and deliver a report in December.

In August, Israeli police recommended indicting Israel’s deputy health minister on suspicion he tried to pressure court-appointed psychiatrists to support Leifer’s mental illness claims.

It will be up to state prosecutors to decide whether to accept the police findings and charge the politician, Yaakov Litzman, who has denied any wrongdoing.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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