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Israel extradites woman wanted for sex crimes to Australia

Israeli authorities on Monday extradited a woman wanted on 74 charges of child sex abuse in Australia, following a six-year legal battle that had strained relations between the two governments.

Malka Leifer, a former teacher accused of sexually abusing several former students at a Jewish school in Melbourne, had been fighting extradition from Israel since 2014. Leifer maintains her innocence and the six-year legal battle surrounding her extradition has strained relations between Israel and Australia.

Israeli media photographed Leifer boarding a plane at Ben Gurion Airport early Monday, her ankles and wrists shackled. Her lawyer confirmed the extradition.

The Hebrew-language news site Ynet reported that she boarded a flight to Frankfurt, where she would transfer to another flight bound for Australia.

Her departure was timed so that she left the country before Israel's shutdown of the airport at midnight due to the country's coronavirus outbreak.

In December, the Supreme Court rejected a final appeal against her extradition, and Israel’s justice minister signed the order to send her to Australia.

Leifer faces 74 charges of child sex abuse that she allegedly committed while teaching in Melbourne.

As accusations against her began surfacing in 2008, Israeli-born Leifer left the school and returned to Israel, where she has lived since.

Critics, including Leifer’s alleged victims, had accused Israeli authorities of dragging out the case for far too long, while Leifer claimed she was mentally unfit to stand trial.

Last year, an Israeli psychiatric panel determined Leifer was lying about her mental condition, setting in motion the extradition.

Manny Waks, head of Voice against Child Sex Abuse, an organization representing Leifer's victims, said in a statement that “this is an incredible day for justice!”

“We can now truly look forward to Leifer facing justice in Australia on the 74 charges she is facing,” he said.