Israeli president calls Australian PM after teacher's ruling

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said he spoke Wednesday with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, following an Israeli court ruling that a former teacher accused of sexually abusing her students in Australia was fit to stand trial and be extradited.

Rivlin noted that the matter was central to his state visit to Australia in February and that he had promised Morrison and Australia’s pro-Israel Jewish community he would monitor the case closely.

“Israel will not allow anyone to use its institutions to evade justice,” Rivlin said, adding that Tuesday's court ruling proved that.

The court ruled that Malka Leifer was faking a mental illness to avoid prosecution. It set a July 20 extradition hearing.

Leifer's accusers say she abused them while they were students at an ultra-Orthodox school in Melbourne. In 2008, as allegations surfaced, the Israeli-born Leifer — a trusted educator in an insular religious community — left her position at the school suddenly and returned to Israel, where she has lived since.

Australia requested Leifer’s extradition in 2014 on 74 charges of child sex abuse and more than 60 Israeli court hearings have followed. The prolonged proceedings have raised concerns that Israeli authorities of dragging out the case for far too long.

Critics say the legal proceedings have been marred by needless delays by Leifer’s legal team. Israeli police also have recommended charges of fraud and breach of trust be brought against former Health Minister Yaakov Litzman for suspicions he pressured ministry employees to skew Leifer’s psychiatric evaluations in her favor. Litzman, a powerful ultra-Orthodox politician, denies wrongdoing.

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