Malaysia to send officer to face New Zealand sex charges

2014-07-25 12:59

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Wellington - Malaysian officials said on Friday they still plan to send a military officer back to New Zealand to face sexual assault charges despite not returning him in early July as they had promised.

However, the officials also expressed concerns about media coverage of the case in New Zealand and the decision of the alleged victim to speak out.

Muhammad Rizalman Ismail was working at the Malaysian Embassy in Wellington when he was arrested on 9 May for allegedly following a 21-year-old woman home and assaulting her. He was charged with burglary and assault with the intent to rape, each of which carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

He claimed diplomatic immunity and returned home 22 May.

New Zealand officials at first appeared to be upset that Malaysia invoked diplomatic immunity, but later acknowledged they may have given the mistaken impression they didn't oppose such a move.

Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs this week responded to some written questions from The Associated Press regarding the case but declined to answer others.

The officials said that on 2 July, the Malaysian government made the decision to send Muhammad Rizalman back to New Zealand within days, a plan they conveyed to New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully.

The officials declined to say what had happened since then to delay his trip or when he could be expected to arrive in New Zealand.

However, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key this week acknowledged that one of the reasons for the delay was that the officer had been undergoing mental health tests. "There are complicating factors and that is one of them," he told reporters.

Key added that he had recently spoken to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak who assured him that Muhammad Rizalman would return to New Zealand.

In response to AP's questions, Malaysian officials said they believed Muhammad Rizalman could still get a fair trial in New Zealand despite the strong public scrutiny of the case there.

"Malaysia is concerned that he should not be tried by the media and the legal principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty should be maintained," they said.

Asked about the decision of alleged victim Tania Billingsley to speak out, Malaysian officials said that anybody involved in a case should not be speaking publicly in way which could prejudice a defendant's right to a fair trial.

Billingsley this month told television network TV3 she thought McCully should resign for mishandling the case and she felt "frustrated" and "angry" that Muhammad Rizalman had been able to leave New Zealand.

McCully has apologised to Billingsley for "the poor management of this case".
Read more on:    john key  |  malaysia  |  new zealand

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.