Malaysian accused due back to face sex charges

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 05:00 18/10/2014
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Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail

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The Malaysian diplomat accused of a sex assault is due back in New Zealand next week after a five-month wait for authorities to negotiate his extradition, an official source has confirmed.

New Zealand formally filed an extradition request last week for Malaysia to return Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail to face charges relating to an alleged attack on Tania Billingsley, 22, in the Wellington suburb of Brooklyn.

The source said the plan was for Rizalman to appear in court in Wellington on his return, more than five months after he was arrested on May 10.

Wellington police charged him with burglary, and assault with intent to rape, in connection with the alleged attack.

But Rizalman, who worked at the Malaysian High Commission in Brooklyn as a defence attache, left New Zealand on May 22 after Malaysia refused to waive his right to invoke diplomatic immunity.

It has since emerged he may not have held a diplomatic passport. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Mfat) told media he was still able to claim immunity.

An inquiry continues into the handling of the case after apparent ambiguity from Mfat left the impression that New Zealand gave its blessing for Rizalman to leave.

Malaysia later announced it would begin the process to return him for trial.

Billingsley waived her right to name suppression and criticised the handling of her case, publicly demanding an apology from Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully.

There is no extradition treaty between New Zealand and Malaysia, but both countries formally agreed to initiate the process in this case.

An Mfat spokeswoman said last week that, despite no extradition treaty being in place, lawyers from both governments had been sharing documents and working through complex legal arrangements to effect Rizalman's return.

The Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Channel News Asia last week that it was "committed to upholding just practices and rule of law in ensuring that Rizalman receives a fair trial for the charges".

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- The Dominion Post

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