Extradited ex-Melbourne school principal Malka Leifer has touched down on Australian soil to face child sexual abuse charges, 13 years after allegedly fleeing to Israel.
A commercial flight from Singapore with Ms Leifer on board landed at Melbourne airport at 8.44pm on Wednesday.
Police waiting on the tarmac immediately took the former educator, head of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls’ school in Elsternwick from 2003 to 2008, into custody.
She will be placed in quarantine for the next 14 days and regularly tested for COVID-19 over that time.
Ms Leifer will face Melbourne Magistrates Court via a video link on Thursday for her first appearance.
It is expected 74 charges of child rape and sexual abuse stemming from her years as principal at the Orthodox Adass Israel School will be formalised during the filing hearing.
Ms Leifer has previously denied all allegations.
An exact time is yet to be set for the hearing.
In a statement confirming Ms Leifer’s arrival in Melbourne, Attorney-General Christian Porter thanked Israeli authorities for their support.
“These are extremely serious charges and now that Ms Leifer has been extradited to Australia, those charges can now be tested by the courts in Victoria,” Mr Porter said.
“Ms Leifer’s return to Australia marks the end of a very long and complicated extradition. I think the Israeli Government for its cooperation and assistance during the course of this process.
“The arrival of Ms Leifer in Australia will bring relief to alleged victims who have waited many years for this moment.”
Wednesday’s flight was the final leg of Ms Leifer’s extradition from Israel, long-awaited by former students and sisters Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper, who filed police reports in 2011.
It began with her boarding a Frankfurt-bound plane at Tel Aviv on Monday, just hours before the closure of Israel’s airports due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Pictures published by local media showed Ms Leifer about to board a flight wearing handcuffs and legcuffs.
Ahead of her arrival, Victoria’s former attorney-general Martin Pakula welcomed news of Ms Leifer’s extradition after a protracted legal battle.
“I’m sure those people who have been agitating and clamouring for her to return will be very pleased that at long last her day in court will come,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
“I’m very pleased that has occurred.”
Long-time victim supporter Manny Waks said it is unclear how long her case will take to progress through Victoria’s legal system given its COVID-driven backlog.
Israel’s Supreme Court approved her extradition order in December and Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn approved the order the following day.
Mr Nissenkorn said he had made good on his promise not to hinder the extradition order.
Ms Leifer’s final failed appeal followed 74 hearings in Israeli courts, which were drawn out on the basis of her mental illness claims.
She flew from Australia to Israel in 2008 when the allegations arose, using a plane ticket allegedly paid for by the Adass School.
Ms Leifer was first arrested in Israel in 2014 only to be freed from house arrest on the condition she undertook psychiatric assessments.
She was ultimately re-arrested in 2018.
Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said it was a “travesty” it had taken so long for Ms Leifer to return.
“While it’s a relief that Israel’s justice system has finally prevailed, the time and process that resulted in these delays are completely unacceptable,” he added.
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Anyone seeking information or support relating to sexual abuse can contact Bravehearts on 1800 272 831 or Blue Knot on 1300 657 380.