The trial of Malka Leifer, a former Haredi girls’ school principal accused of sexually abusing her students in Melbourne, commenced on Tuesday.
Several preliminary hearings had earlier been held, and a Melbourne court deemed Leifer fit to stand trial. But it took until last September to set the Tuesday opening hearing session, which focused on the selection of a jury.
Some 80 potential jurors were seen entering the closed hearing during which the sides negotiated the list down to 15 permanent members. Leifer was present for Tuesday’s hearing.
The case is being heard before Victoria County Court Judge Mark Gamble and is expected to last roughly six weeks.
On Wednesday, the defense and prosecution will provide opening statements in the trial’s first open hearing. The first of the complainants — sisters Dassi Erlich, Nicole Meyer and Elly Sapper — is expected to testify on Thursday.
Leifer faces numerous charges related to child sex abuse.
Her defense team has long maintained that Leifer is innocent, pleading not guilty to the charges.
“I’m relieved and delighted that this day has finally arrived and we look forward to some semblance of justice being served,” said Manny Waks, head of Voice Against Child Sexual Abuse, an Israeli-based organization fighting child abuse in the Jewish community.
“We stand in support of all those impacted by this trial,” he said.
Leifer left Israel to take a job at the Adass Israel school in Melbourne in 2000. Allegations of sexual abuse against her began to surface eight years later.