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An Israeli woman facing 74 child sex charges in Australia is mentally fit to face extradition, a court has ruled. Malka Leifer, the former principal of a Jewish girls' school in Melbourne, fled to Israel in after accusations were raised against her. Extradition hearings were delayed for two years as Ms Leifer, 54, said panic attacks prevented her coming to court.
But a Jerusalem district court judge said expert opinion was followed in ruling Ms Leifer fit for the process. Judge Chana Lomp set 20 July as the date for a renewal of the extradition process to take the suspect back from Israel to Australia. Her accusers, who have waived their right to anonymity, spoke to media in Melbourne on Wednesday. The three sisters - Elly Sapper, Dassi Erlich and Nicole Meyer- welcomed the "huge moment" in their six-year legal battle.
Dave Sharma, Australia's former ambassador to Israel, said in October the delay in extraditing Ms Leifer was "not only an affront to justice but deeply traumatic for the victims of this abuse". Ms Leifer, who was not in court on Tuesday, allegedly raped and indecently assaulted girls at the ultra-Orthodox Adass Israel School in Melbourne, Australia.
Australia attempted to extradite her between and , but the attempt failed after Ms Leifer was found mentally unfit for trial. Undercover private investigators later filmed her shopping and depositing a cheque at a bank, leading Israeli authorities to investigate and arrest her in February In January this year, a panel of psychiatrists found that Ms Leifer was faking her mental illness to avoid extradition, paving the way for Tuesday's decision.
In a page ruling, Judge Lomp said Ms Leifer's mental problems "were not psychotic problems of mental illness as in its legal definition". One of the alleged victims, Dassi Erlich, pointed out that the decision had come on the 66th court hearing for the case - and the battle had been draining for all three sisters.