Envoy to be sent back to New Zealand to face attempted rape charge

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 July, 2014, 12:15am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 July, 2014, 7:03pm


Malaysia said yesterday it would send an envoy back to New Zealand to face an attempted rape charge as a diplomatic storm erupted over the case.

Kuala Lumpurhad earlier asked Wellington to drop the case against defence staff assistant Muhammad Rizalman Ismail, promising he would never return to the country, according to documents released yesterday.

Muhammad Rizalman appeared in a New Zealand court on May 10 accused of stalking a 21-year-old woman the previous night and attacking her at her home in the same Wellington suburb where Malaysia's high commission is located.

Police charged him with burglary and assault with intent to commit rape - both offences that carry a possible jail term of up to 10 years - but he escaped prosecution after invoking diplomatic immunity and returning to his homeland.

But in an about-turn, Malaysia's foreign ministry said Rizalman would return to New Zealand "to assist in the investigation for the charges".

"The Malaysian government is of the view that this decision will provide an opportunity for Mr Muhammad Rizalman to co-operate fully and assist the New Zealand authorities in the ongoing investigations on the allegations made against him," it said.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said this was a "very welcome development which underlines the good faith and integrity with which they have approached this issue".

The case has caused uproar in New Zealand, with the government facing criticism for failing to ensure the diplomat stood trial.

"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," McCully said.

Malaysia said it would provide legal assistance to Rizalman, who "is innocent until proven guilty".

New Zealand earlier released correspondence between foreign affairs officials and the Malaysian high commission, in which the diplomatic mission refused to waive immunity and asked that the charges be dropped and the matter kept quiet.