Australia’s prime minister and Israel’s president on Wednesday discussed an extradition request for a former school principal whose alleged abuse of dozens of Australian schoolgirls cast a shadow over the Israeli leader’s visit.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and President Reuven Rivlin discussed their “strong commitment to seeing justice” in the case of the former principal, Malka Leifer.
An opposition MP said Rivlin had offered to personally intervene in the case if progress is not made in court this week. Leifer has been fighting extradition from Israel for six years and the legal wrangle to bring her before an Australian court has caused a diplomatic strain between the allies.
Rivlin has been criticised for declining an invitation to meet three of the alleged victims during his visit to Melbourne, where Leifer was the principal of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish school until 2008.
MP Josh Burns, who represents an electorate where the three alleged victims — sisters Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper — live, said he raised their plight when Rivlin held a meeting with senior opposition MPs.
Manny Waks, Melbourne-based chief executive of Kol v’Oz, a Jewish organisation that combats child sex abuse, said it was “regrettable” that the president could not find time to meet the sisters while in Melbourne.
“It seems President Rivlin has his priorities wrong on this trip,” Waks said.
Rivlin said recently that he was “confident that Israel does not allow those who have committed crimes to avoid justice.
“The professional opinion of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and the State Prosecutor’s Office is that the extradition should be carried out as soon as possible and are doing everything possible to expedite it,” Rivlin added.
Australia requested Leifer's extradition in 2014 on 74 charges of child sex abuse and more than 60 Israeli court hearings have followed.
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