Malaysian Diplomat Returned to New Zealand to Face Sex Charge; NZ Minister Slammed for Inaction

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By Reissa Su | July 3, 2014 5:04 PM EST

The New Zealand government welcomed the decision of Malaysia to send back the diplomat accused of sexual assault. According to the Malaysian authorities, it would allow Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail to "cooperate fully and assist" authorities in New Zealand.

REUTERS/Samsul Said
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800 aircraft parks on tarmac of Kuala Lumpur International Airport outside Kuala Lumpur June 14, 2014. REUTERS/Samsul Said (MALAYSIA - Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT)

According to reports, the diplomat left New Zealand and went back to Malaysia after the alleged attack on a young woman in Wellington. He cited diplomatic immunity and left the country.

Rizalman had been working for the Malaysian High Commission as a staff assistant for defence in Wellington since 2013.

He was accused of following a 21-year-old woman home on May 9 and attacking her. Police had charged Rizalman with burglary and assault with intent to rape. He left the next day with his family for Malaysia.

On July 1, the Malaysian government said that the accused should be allowed the legal principle of "innocent until proven guilty." In a statement, Malaysia expressed its complete faith in New Zealand's legal system and has "full confidence" that Rizalman will be given "fair treatment with dignity" as required by the law.

Reports said the Malaysian government is ready to provide legal assistance if necessary. Rizalman will be accompanied by a senior military officer from the defence ministry of Malaysia.

Earlier in the week, the name of the diplomat accused of attempted rape was suppressed by court order. Prime Minister John Key was pressured to reveal the name and the home country but cited legal reasons for his refusal to do so. Mr Key only said the home country involved has a "good relationship" with New Zealand.

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully defended his actions in handling the case of the Malaysian diplomat. According to McCully, it was only appropriate for him to leave the matter to the authorities. However, the Labour Party criticised his "hands-off" approach and called it "remarkable."

McCully said he was informed about the diplomat's arrest on May 10 and told diplomatic immunity is being sought. The minister said he was told nothing more and did not take any further action until the case was reported by media last weekend.

He told Radio New Zealand he was not informed about the immunity waiver being rejected. McCully added he should have been informed about it.

Greens Party MP Jan Logie talked to the woman who revealed she was angry at how the case was being handled.  The victim said he wanted Rizalman to face charges in New Zealand since the beginning. 

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(Photo: REUTERS/Samsul Said / )
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800 aircraft parks on tarmac of Kuala Lumpur International Airport outside Kuala Lumpur June 14, 2014. REUTERS/Samsul Said (MALAYSIA - Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT)
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