Ex school head facing 74 charges of child sex abuse refuses to answer judge

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Ex school head facing 74 charges of child sex abuse refuses to answer judge

Days after her extradition from Israel to Australia, Malka Leifer sat slumped in a chair with her head in her arms during her first court appearance

Malka Leifer entering a courtroom (October 2019)
Malka Leifer entering a courtroom (October 2019)

The former Jewish headmistress extradited to Australia to face 74 charges of child sexual abuse has refused to answer a judge and sat slouched forward with her head in her arms during her first court appearance this week.

Malka Leifer, who fled Melbourne for Israel hours before her arrest 13 years ago, was finally flown back on Monday to face her accusers, and appeared before a magistrate via video link on Thursday.

She did not speak when asked if she could hear, despite police confirming that the technology was working, and buried her face on the table throughout the proceeding.

Leifer is accused of sexually abusing girls at the Adass Israel Orthodox school she headed. Among the charges are 11 counts of rape. Over a decade, her Israeli lawyers sought unsuccessfully to argue that she was mentally unfit to stand trial in Australia.

She is charged with rape, indecent assault, committing an indecent act with a child, and sexual penetration of a child, beginning in 2004 and ending in 2008. The charges were filed in March 2012 and the names of alleged victims have been redacted.

Israeli police rearrested Leifer after private investigators filmed her going about her daily life in the West Bank settlement of Emmanuel where she was living. Israel’s supreme court later found that Leifer had been feigning mental illness to avoid extradition and ordered her on a plane.

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