Envoy's bail terms unable to be applied

HAMISH RUTHERFORD AND ALEX FENSOME
Last updated 05:00 12/07/2014
Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail
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FILES OPENED: Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail

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Police asked the courts to lift bail conditions on the Malaysian diplomat at the centre of a sexual assault case, allowing him to use his passport, because diplomatic immunity made them impossible to enforce.

Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail was arrested on May 10 on charges of burglary and assault with intent to rape after an alleged attack in Brooklyn, Wellington.

He left New Zealand on May 22 after Malaysia declined to waive his diplomatic immunity and has so far not returned to face trial.

Files issued by the courts yesterday showed police asked for the bail conditions imposed on Rizalman to be lifted on May 15. They were imposed when he was charged five days earlier.

Among them, he was to surrender his passport to police within two days, was not to associate with the victim, now revealed to be Tania Billingsley, 22, and not to enter Brooklyn unless going to the Malaysian High Commission.

Wellington district commander Superintendent Sam Hoyle said that by May 12 police knew Rizalman had diplomatic immunity and the Malaysians would not waive his right to use it.

"[Rizalman's] passport was secured at the Malaysian High Commission during this time and once the immunity was confirmed police sought to have the now unenforcable bail conditions removed," Hoyle said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has launched an inquiry into how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade botched its handling of the situation, but not his own conduct.

Former Treasury secretary John Whitehead will lead the inquiry into what led the Malaysian Government to apparently believe it had New Zealand's blessing in rebuffing a request for it to waive Rizalman's diplomatic immunity.

The Government initially insisted it had delivered a clear message that it was New Zealand's "strong preference" for Rizalman to face justice here. However, it later said contact between protocol officers at Mfat with Malaysian officials in Wellington had led to "ambiguity" around New Zealand's position.

McCully said a "thorough and transparent inquiry" was important in a bid to restore confidence in Mfat.

His office refused to say when its findings would be made public, other than in a "timely fashion".

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- The Dominion Post

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