Sex-case diplomat ordered back to NZ

Muhammed Rizalman Bin Ismail
Muhammed Rizalman Bin Ismail
The Malaysian diplomat at the centre of the sex-case scandal will return to New Zealand to face charges for sexual assault, the Malaysian Government confirmed late last night.

In a dramatic twist to the case, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman confirmed that warrant officer Muhammed Rizalman Bin Ismail would be sent back to this country, where there is an active warrant for his arrest. He would be accompanied by a military escort.

New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said Mr Anifah confirmed the decision in a phone call last night. "I want to convey my thanks to the Malaysian Government for this very welcome development which underlines the good faith and integrity with which they have approached this issue.

"There was never any intention by either government to let this matter rest, and regardless of whether the process took place in Malaysia or New Zealand there was a strong commitment to seeing justice done.

"The young woman involved has been through a great deal and the way this matter has been handled has only added to her suffering. I hope she, and her family, will welcome news that the accused will return to New Zealand so the matter can be fully investigated as was always the Government's intention."

A statement released by the Malaysian Government said: "It is of the view that this decision will provide an opportunity for Mr Muhammed Rizalman to co-operate fully and assist the New Zealand authorities in the ongoing investigations on the allegations made against him.

"In this regard, the legal principle that one is considered innocent until proven guilty should apply to Mr Muhammed Rizalman."

The Malaysian Government would provide legal assistance if necessary.

The warrant officer and former staff member at the Malaysian High Commission has been charged with burglary and intent to rape, which are punishable by up to 10 years' jail.

He was arrested on May 9, accused of following a 21-year-old Wellington woman home and assaulting her.

He was charged and appeared the following day in Wellington District Court. Ismail claimed diplomatic immunity and returned to Malaysia on May 22.

The New Zealand Government has maintained that it always wanted Ismail to remain in the country and face the charges.

But miscommunication between New Zealand and Malaysian officials led to Malaysia believing that repatriating Rizalman and trying him under a military court was acceptable to New Zealand.

Meanwhile, the complainant said she was "angry" she had been forgotten in a high-level international row.

The 21-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, talked to Green MP Jan Logie because she had spoken in Parliament about sexual violence.

She told the MP police had warned she may have to give evidence in Malaysia if Rizalman was not extradited.

Ms Logie said the young woman had been watching parliamentary debates on television and was appalled by the focus of discussion about the case.

"Right at the moment she's running on adrenaline and is angry. She's been listening to all of these debates where she's been reduced down to the phrase 'the victim'. What she sees is the real issue - the fact that the system didn't listen to her, and has effectively been setting up to deny her justice. She gets the connection to that and a lot of other people's experience and she's angry."

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Mfat) chief executive John Allen apologised to the woman yesterday "for the turmoil that she has had to suffer".

When he returned to Malaysia, Rizalman was in a military hospital in Kuala Lumpur for psychiatric observation to assess his mental and emotional condition.

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