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Police say Israeli deputy minister 'interfered' in paedophilia case

Litzman stepped down in 2017 over railway work taking place in Sabbath [AFP]

Date of publication: 6 August, 2019

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Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman allegedly interfered in the extradition of a woman facing trial in Australia for paedophilia.
Israeli police on Tuesday recommended charging Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman over accusations he sought to prevent the extradition of a woman facing trial in Australia for paedophilia.

State prosecutors will now decide whether to charge Litzman, who will be up for re-election in Israel's 17 September polls.

Litzman, an ultra-Orthodox Jew and head of the United Torah Judaism political alliance, was investigated by police on allegations he exploited his office in a number of instances, including in the case of Malka Leifer.

The ultra-Orthodox woman is accused of child sex abuse while she was a teacher and principal at an ultra-Orthodox Jewish school for girls in Melbourne, where she had relocated from her native Israel.

She is currently fighting her extradition at the Jerusalem district court, claiming to be mentally unfit to be deported to Australia and stand trial.

According to police, Litzman "attempted to sway the position of psychiatrists in the health ministry appointed by the Jerusalem district court to determine the mental condition" of Leifer during the extradition process.

"There is sufficient evidence against deputy minister Litzman to prove fraud and breach of trust and witness tampering," police said in a statement.

Police also recommended pressing charges against Litzman for allegedly trying to prevent the closure of a restaurant that had serious sanitary shortcomings and had caused several people to fall sick.

Litzman's office rejected the accusations, saying they had "no doubt that after a close examination it will emerge that there was no fault in the deputy minister's conduct".

"Deputy minister Litzman has acted in all his years of public service for the benefit of Israel's citizens, in full transparency and by law," his office said in a statement.

Dassi Erlich, one of the women accusing Leifer of sexually abusing her, said she was "grateful" that the questions her campaign raised "resulted in one more step to achieving justice."

The police's investigation of Litzman "brought to light the systemic cover up and support of abusers, in the highest levels of government", she wrote in a statement.

Litzman stepped down from his position as the country's health minister in 2017 over railway infrastructure work taking place on the Sabbath, when all labour is prohibited according to Jewish law.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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