National

Alleged Leifer victims bruised, not broken

By AAP Newswire

Three former students of accused child abuser Malka Leifer are staggered an Israeli court has finally found the ex-Melbourne principal is mentally fit to face extradition.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has told Israeli President Reuven Rivlin the development will bring great relief to alleged victims and their families.

Sisters Elly Sapir, Dassi Erlich and Nicole Meyer watched for six years as Leifer tried to use the court system to avoid facing justice.

But on Wednesday they were relieved at the breakthrough in their long-fought battle, saying they hoped it shows survivors across the world that they have a voice.

The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday accepted a psychiatric panel's unanimous decision Leifer was fit to face a hearing to determine if she should be extradited to Australia.

"We've watched again and again as Malka Leifer first abused us and lied to us, and then used those same tactics in the Israeli court system," Ms Erlich told reporters in Melbourne.

"This process has really bruised us but it has not broken us."

Just weeks away from becoming a mother, Ms Sapir said it felt surreal to hear Leifer was fit for the proceeding.

"I feel so proud of us three and the strength we've shown and the resilience we've shown to achieve what we've achieved," she said.

Leifer fled Melbourne to Israel in 2008 following allegations stemming from her time as principal of the ultra-orthodox Adass Israel School.

She faces 74 rape and child abuse charges laid in Victoria in 2011.

Australia requested Leifer's extradition in 2014, but she's remained in Israel while local courts determined her mental health.

"Six years we have been fighting this battle about her mental illness," Ms Meyer said.

"It took 66 court hearings to hear what we should have heard in court hearing number one."

Former Victorian premier Ted Baillieu has long campaigned with the sisters and said the process has gone on far too long and been far too unfair.

"The Israeli justice system has gotten itself back on track," he said.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the ruling on Leifer was an important step in making sure that justice is done.

Both Mr Andrews and Mr Morrison lobbied Israel for progress on the case.

President Rivlin, in a call to Mr Morrison on Wednesday evening, noted the matter was central to his visit to Australia in February and that he had promised his Australian counterpart he would monitor the case closely.

"Israel will not allow anyone to use its institutions to evade justice," Mr Rivlin said, adding that Tuesday's court ruling proved his point.

Mr Morrison acknowledged that the decision could be appealed.

But he told the president it was a welcome development in the extradition process and would bring great relief to alleged victims and their families, who have carried an enormous burden.

Leifer's defence is expected to appeal the court's decision, meaning the case would then move to the Jerusalem High Court.