Israeli police have re-arrested former Melbourne school principal Malka Leifer, alleging she faked mental illness to avoid extradition to her home country of Australia where she is wanted on 74 charges of child sexual abuse.
Ms Liefer is accused of sexually abusing several pupils while she was a teacher and principal at the ultra-orthodox Adass Israel girls school in Melbourne.
Israeli police said yesterday that “during 2017 there were indications that the suspect was pretending to be suffering from mental illness in order to avoid the extradition process and as a result, the police opened again an investigation that led to her arrest this morning”.
“The Department of International Affairs will look into the process of having the suspect extradited to Australia”.
In June 2016, an Israeli court stopped the extradition process of Ms Leifer after a psychiatric assessment found that she was not fit to stand trial. Mental health professionals previously said Ms Leifer’s panic attacks prior to her scheduled court appearances were genuine and said the proceedings of a court hearing put her under extreme anxiety.
Ms Leifer fled to Israel in 2008, when the allegations first surfaced. She was arrested by Israeli police in 2014, when Australia filed a request for her extradition. She was released on bail and soon claimed she was suffering from panic attacks and anxiety which left her too unwell to attend court.
Two weeks ago, she again claimed mental illness during her most recent appearance before a psychiatric review board. But Ms Leifer’s claims have come under new scrutiny after Israeli police said they had been conducting a secret undercover investigation into her mental health.
In a statement after her arrest on Monday morning, Israeli police said they arrested a female in her fifties “suspected of obstructing court proceedings and attempting to hide evidence of a case”.
An Israeli police spokesman told ABC: “We have found new evidence that shows us she is capable of standing trial.
“This has been an ongoing investigation in coordination with Australian authorities.
“The arrest was made based on the evidence we have gathered over the last few weeks.”
The undercover investigation reportedly began following an Interpol request. Israeli police said the extradition process had now restarted.
Ms Leifer has denied the charges in previous extradition hearings, while the former principal’s alleged victims have welcomed news of her arrest.