Israel court says woman can be extradited to Australia in child sex case

Former Australian teacher Malka Leifer, center, is escorted by police as she arrives for a hearing at the District Court in Jerusalem. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 21 September 2020

Israel court says woman can be extradited to Australia in child sex case

  • Jerusalem District Court ruled that Malka Leifer could be extradited to Australia to stand trial for 74 charges of child sex abuse

JERUSALEM: An Israeli court on Monday approved the extradition of a former teacher wanted in Australia on charges of child sex abuse, potentially paving the way for her to stand trial after a six-year legal battle.
Malka Leifer, a former educator who is accused of sexually abusing several former students, has been fighting extradition from Israel since 2014. Leifer maintains her innocence and the battle surrounding her extradition has strained relations between Israel and Australia.
Earlier this month, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Leifer’s attorney over a Jerusalem court’s ruling that she was mentally fit to stand trial, saying it was “putting an end to the saga that has been drawn out for many years.”
On Monday, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that Leifer could be extradited to Australia to stand trial for 74 charges of child sex abuse. The formal extradition now requires an order by Israel’s justice minister.
Leifer’s attorneys said they would appeal an extradition order to Israel’s Supreme Court, saying it would be a “political decision.”
“For those who think that this chapter is now closed, I’m sorry, the process will still last quite a few months more,” said Nick Kaufman, one of Leifer’s defense lawyers.
Critics, including Leifer’s alleged victims, have accused Israeli authorities of dragging out the case for far too long.
State prosecutor Avital Ribner Oron said Leifer had made “every effort to avoid and delay the extradition proceedings” but that “today the court put an end to those efforts and declared her extraditable to Australia.”
The ruling “was an important decision for the rule of law, for international cooperation, and most importantly, to the victims of Malka Leifer’s crimes,” Oron said.
In Australia, parliament member Josh Burns praised the court ruling.
“Justice has taken far too long. But finally, justice has won the day,” Burn said. “And while we await further appeals, we call on the Israeli judicial system to deal with them as quickly as possible and for the justice minister to give the extradition the final sign off without any further delays.”
Earlier this year an Israeli psychiatric panel determined Leifer had lied about suffering a mental condition that made her unfit to stand trial. As a result of the findings, Israel’s Justice Ministry said it would move to expedite her extradition.
Three sisters – Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper – have accused Leifer of abusing them while they were students at a Melbourne ultra-Orthodox school. There are said to be other victims.
“This is a victory for justice! A victory not just for us, but for all survivors. Exhaling years of holding our breath!” Erlich wrote on Facebook following the court’s decision.
The Associated Press does not usually identify alleged victims of sexual abuse, but the sisters have spoken publicly about their allegations against Leifer.
As accusations surfaced in 2008, Israeli-born Leifer left the school and returned to Israel, where she has lived since.
Manny Waks, the head of Kol v’Oz, a Jewish group that combats child sex abuse and that has been representing the three sisters, said Monday’s ruling marked “a great day for justice.”
“It is a day which at times seemed like it would never arrive, but we are thrilled that it is finally here,” Waks said. “It has taken 71 court hearings to get to this point. It has been Israel’s shame.”


US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

Updated 22 October 2020

US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

  • Intelligence director: “These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries”

WASHINGTON: US officials accused Iran on Wednesday of being behind a flurry of emails sent to Democratic voters in multiple battleground states that appeared to be aimed at intimidating them into voting for President Donald Trump.
The announcement at a rare, hastily called news conference just two weeks before the election underscored the concern within the US government about efforts by foreign countries to spread false information meant to suppress voter turnout and undermine American confidence in the vote.
The activities attributed to Iran would mark a significant escalation for a nation that some cybersecurity experts regard as a second-rate player in online espionage, with the announcement coming as most public discussion surrounding election interference has centered on Russia, which hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election, and China, a Trump administration adversary.
“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” said John Ratcliffe, the government’s top intelligence official, who, along with FBI Director Chris Wray, insisted the US would impose costs on any foreign countries that interfere in the 2020 US election and that the integrity of the election is still sound.
“You should be confident that your vote counts,” Wray said. “Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
Wray and Ratcliffe did not describe the emails linked to Iran, but officials familiar with the matter said the US has linked Tehran to messages sent to Democratic voters in at least four battleground states that falsely purported to be from the neo-fascist group Proud Boys and that warned “we will come after you” if the recipients didn’t vote for Trump.
The officials also said Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration data, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Ratcliffe said the spoofed emails were intended to hurt Trump, though he did not elaborate on how. An intelligence assessment released in August said: “Iran seeks to undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-US content.”
Trump, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, made no reference to the press conference but repeated a familiar campaign assertion that Iran is opposed to his reelection. He promised that if he wins another term he will swiftly reach a new accord with Iran over its nuclear program.
“Iran doesn’t want to let me win. China doesn’t want to let me win,” Trump said. “The first call I’ll get after we win, the first call I’ll get will be from Iran saying let’s make a deal.”
Both Russia and Iran also obtained voter registration information, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Asked about the emails during an online forum Wednesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she lacked specific information. “I am aware that they were sent to voters in multiple swing states and we are working closely with the attorney general on these types of things and others,” she said.
While state-backed Russian hackers are known to have infiltrated US election infrastructure in 2016, there is no evidence that Iran has ever done so.
The voter intimidation operation apparently used email addresses obtained from state voter registration lists, which include party affiliation and home addresses and can include email addresses and phone numbers. Those addresses were then used in an apparently widespread targeted spamming operation. The senders claimed they would know which candidate the recipient was voting for in the Nov. 3 election, for which early voting is ongoing.
Federal officials have long warned about the possibility of this type of operation, as such registration lists are not difficult to obtain.
“These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections,” Christopher Krebs, the top election security official at the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Tuesday night after reports of the emails first surfaced.