Middle East

Israeli minister questioned over obstruction in Malka Leifer extradition

Malka Leifer, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman, seen handcuffed as she was brought to court in Jerusalem last year. Source: AAP

Israeli police have summoned the deputy health minister over claims he tried to stop the extradition of Malka Leifer to Australia on child sex abuse charges.

Israel's deputy health minister has been summoned for questioning by Israeli police on suspicion of obstructing the extradition of Malka Leifer to Australia to face child sex abuse charges.

Minister Ya'acov Litzman was questioned on February 14 over allegations of attempting to source psychiatric evaluations that would deem Leifer unfit to face trial in Australia.

The interrogation follows an investigation commenced several months ago by the Israeli National Fraud Investigation Unit.

An extradition case is ongoing in Israel as expert psychiatrists present to the Jerusalem District Court their various examinations of Leifer's mental stability.

Past students of Adass Israel School in Melbourne, who accuse Leifer of abusing them, are fighting to have her return to Australia on 74 charges of child sex abuse, including rape.

Malka Leifer
An extradition case is looking at evidence over Malka Leifer's mental state.
SBS

One of the women Leifer allegedly abused at the Ultra-Orthodox school, Dassi Erlich, along with Jewish NGO's Kol V'Oz and Jewish Community Watch, believe Litzman has long been trying to interfere with the case.

Erlich told AAP she remembers meeting Litzman last year in the Israeli Parliament.

"He did not seem to want to talk to us until [he was] repeatedly asked to have a word," Erlich said.

"He looked us in the eye and said - 'I do not support extradition, and I will not, BUT I will not intervene.'"

Kol V'Oz CEO Manny Waks told Israeli media her organisation has long expected interference in the Leifer case.

"These serious allegations against Israel's Deputy Health Minister, Rabbi Ya'acov Litzman, confirms the ongoing suspicion many have regarding this case," Waks stated.

Israeli ministers and the Jerusalem Deputy Mayor have called for Litzman to step down from office if Leifer escapes extradition due to his efforts to obtain false psychiatric papers.

'He should step down'

Erlich told AAP the news of Litzman's possible involvement in the case was a "huge shock."

"As the health minister he has a responsibility to be unbiased and fair in all his medical decisions," she said.

"We feel he should indeed step down and be fully investigated."

Israel's state prosecution says Leifer is feigning mental illness to dodge extradition.

Police would not elaborate, but Israeli media reported that Litzman is suspected of trying to falsify psychiatric medical evaluations that would bar Leifer from extradition.

The deputy health minister's office released a statement denying the allegations, continuing to say Litzman was cooperating fully with police.

"Litzman is confident of his innocence, and will continue to give assistance to every request which reaches his office, in accordance with the laws and relevant regulations," the statement read.

Leifer flew to Israel 2008 but was later arrested there.

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