Accused Victorian Principal Arrested in Israel

Published: 13 February 2018

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Malka Leifer is wanted on 74 child sex abuse charges

Accused sex offender Malka Leifer

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Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews has welcomed the arrest in Israel of former Melbourne school principal Malka Leifer, who fled Australia ten years ago when allegations of abuse surfaced.

Leifer is accused by Israeli police of pretending to suffer from mental illness to avoid extradition over allegations she sexually assaulted several girls at the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Adass Israel girls' school in Melbourne.

Mr Andrews has previously raised the issue of Leifer's extradition with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and says people have the right to expect she will face justice in Australia.

"I think it is a significant breakthrough, not just that she's been arrested but, in fact, she's being accused of having fabricated some of these issues," the premier told ABC radio on Tuesday.

"This is a great concern to parents, to many of the Jewish community and beyond.

"I think all of us are concerned to think that somebody who is accused of these terrible crimes was attempting to evade and avoid justice."

Leifer was arrested overnight after a month-long undercover investigation by Israeli police, stemming from an International Criminal Police Organisation request.

"During 2017 there were indications that the suspect was pretending to be suffering from mental illness in order to avoid the extradition process," Israeli police said in a statement.

"This morning police officers arrested a female in her 50s from Samaria suspected of obstructing court proceedings and attempting to hide evidence of a case."

In 2016, an Israeli court halted proceedings to extradite Leifer back to Australia after finding she was not fit to stand trial due to mental illness.

Following Leifer's arrest, the Israeli Department for International Affairs will reconsider her extradition.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull raised the issue with Mr Netanyahu in October in Jerusalem.

Three of her alleged victims also went to Israel to campaign for her return to Australia.

Leifer was principal and a teacher at the Melbourne school between 2003 and 2008.

With AAP