In 2016, Ms Leifer was declared unfit to stand trial by a Jerusalem district judge because of her mental health, but in February this year she was arrested and accused by local authorities of obstructing justice by feigning illness to avoid trial.
Wednesday’s dramatic hearing on this matter lasted more than three hours with the defence team, led by Tal Gabai, dominating the hearing.
Mr Gabai interrupted the prosecution and the judge on numerous occasions, angering Judge Dorot by raising his voice and looking back at Ms Leifer’s family members as well as two private investigators hired by the defence and seen for the first time at this hearing.
The private investigators constantly handed notes to the defence, and Mr Gabai was seen winking and checking back to gauge their reaction to his arguments.
The defence argued that evidence given to the court at previous hearings this year suggesting that Ms Leifer was of sound mind were false, including a phone call alleged to have been made by the defendant that the prosecution agreed was in fact made by her daughter.
Mr Gabai claimed that Ms Leifer was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and experienced psychotic episodes and fainting attacks whenever she was due in court. Ms Liefer, who was being held in Israel’s sole women’s prison, allegedly stayed in bed all day in a “serious clinical condition” and was taking anti-psychotic medication.
Responding to the false evidence claims, state prosecutor Matan Akiba said certain recordings were handed straight from the Israeli police to the psychiatric committee assigned to assess Ms Leifer’s mental state, and did not pass through the prosecution, admitting that mistakes were made by police.
Mr Akiba argued, however, that if Ms Leifer was suffering from psychosis only during times of trial, her condition should have improved after she was acquitted in 2014 over her mental state. Instead, the defence argued that she was still unable to take care of herself as late as last year and her family appointed a legal guardian to make decisions over her health.
Mr Akiba picked holes in Ms Leifer’s claims that she had been in therapy since she was 17 years old, saying there was no evidence that she had been treated until 2008, when she left Australia after allegations were raised over her time as principal of the Adass Israel Girls school in Melbourne.
The defence retorted that no allegations were raised in Australia until as late as 2011, proving that she did not flee.
Video evidence of Ms Leifer “going about her day-to-day life” was presented by the prosecution to prove that she was mentally well even when she was under investigation, with Mr Akiba arguing that neighbours had seen her cooking, shopping, taking the bus, and visiting the banks and post office.
The private investigators hired by her defence team provided contrary evidence to thatcollected by an undercover investigation into Ms Leifer, which resulted in her re-arrest in February.
The defence argued on five clauses that the evidence against Ms Leifer was “irrelevant” on the basis that she was filmed on her “regular days” when she was feeling better, including voice recordings, videos, visits to the post office, and statements made by her neighbours where she was living in an ultra-Orthodox settlement in the West Bank.
“The bigger clinical picture is irrelevant,” Mr Gabai said. “Some days she is not able to take care of herself, but she is not ill all the time. There are awful periods, and periods when she is OK. There are medicines that help her get through some days.”
He claimed that the defendant was not able to stand trial on the basis that she broke down before hearings, leading to her being unable to cooperate, and that the prosecution had no evidence to refute this.
The prosecution had argued that Ms Leifer did not turn up to the pharmacy to collect her medicines.
But Mr Gabai said that they had visited the wrong clinic, and provided evidence to show that she had been taking her medicine, accusing the prosecution of “cheekily distorting evidence for four months while Ms Leifer remains behind bars”.
Commenting on the delay, one alleged victim told The Age this “long saga to extradite Ms Leifer… hasn’t even got to the extradition trial yet… and we are anxiously awaiting positive news that justice will prevail”.
“Tonight, we watched as once again there seemed to be no movement forward and feel frustrated with these constant delays,” she said.
The state prosecution says the process will take time, with this case awaiting a decision from the District Attorney whether or not to indict Ms Leifer depending on the priority of the case.
The defence, however, believes Ms Leifer will be released on bail at the next hearing, telling journalists: “In short, all the claims they [the prosecution] presented are lies. They have nothing.”
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