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Israeli court approves extradition to Australia of sex-crime suspect

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli court ruled on Monday that a former principal of an Australian school accused of sexually assaulting students could be extradited to Australia for trial, but implementation could be held up by an appeal.

Malka Leifer has fought her return to Australia, including with a submission of mental illness, dragging the case on since 2014. Leifer, who was the principal of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in Melbourne, has denied the allegations against her.

Jerusalem District Court, having ruled in May that Leifer was fit to face trial on the basis of a series of psychiatric examinations, decided at Monday’s session that she could be extradited.

It gave her 30 days to lodge an appeal with Israel’s Supreme Court, and Leifer’s lawyers said a challenge against extradition would be mounted there.

“Those who think that this process is now a closed chapter - I’m afraid will be disappointed,” Nick Kaufman, one of Leifer’s attorneys, told reporters. “There is a long way to go until Mrs Leifer will be surrendered to Australia, if at all.”

Leifer is wanted by Australian police on 74 sexual assault charges, including rape, involving girls at her former school.

She fled Australia in 2008 with what Australian authorities believe was the assistance of the insular Adass Jewish community, after accusations against her surfaced.

Australia has pressed Israel to expedite Leifer’s case and her alleged victims have criticised the long Israeli judicial proceedings.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller, William Maclean