25 Oct 2014

Malaysian diplomat appears in court

7:57 pm on 25 October 2014

The former Malaysian diplomat accused of attacking a Wellington woman five months ago appeared in court on Saturday morning after returning to New Zealand late on Friday night.

Muhammad Rizalman.

Muhammad Rizalman Photo: FACEBOOK

Muhammad Rizalman was remanded in custody after making a brief appearance at the Wellington District Court. He will reappear on Tuesday.

Mr Rizalman was charged with assault with an intent to rape, and with burglary, but was able to leave the country by invoking diplomatic immunity.

The Justice of the Peace this morning turned down the media's application to take photos and film the defendant.

He accepted the defence counsel's submission that images of Mr Rizalman in a jet-lagged state could undermine his right to a fair trial.

Malaysia 'confident' of fair trial

Malaysia only got New Zealand's official request for the extradition earlier this month, on 3 October, after Mr Rizalman left the country on 22 May.

It was a botch-up by this country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) officials that allowed Mr Rizalman, 35, to return home.

Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement before he arrived back in New Zealand.

"Mr Rizalman's return to New Zealand is testimony of the close cooperation between the various government agencies of both Malaysia and New Zealand and in keeping with the rule of law of both countries.

"Malaysia is confident that Mr Rizalman will be accorded a fair trial by the New Zealand court."

Kept from public view

Mr Rizalman, a former defence staff assistant at Malaysia's High Commission in Wellington, arrived in Auckland last night on flight MH133 with two New Zealand police officers and two officers from Malaysia's Armed Forces.

He did not exit into the usual public arrivals area at Auckland Airport's international terminal.

Muhammad Rizalman arrived in Auckland on flight MH133 with two New Zealand police officers and two officers from Malaysia's Armed Forces.

Muhammad Rizalman arrived in Auckland on flight MH133 just before midnight last night. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Police said he was processed on what is known as "airside" before being held in custody at the Counties Manukau police station for the night.

They said he would be met by a car on the tarmac when he arrived at Wellington Airport before being taken to the city's district court.

Tania Billingsley, 21, herself went to court in early July to have her automatic name suppression lifted so her identity could be reported.

Jan Logie, a Member of Parliament who has been an advocate for her, said Ms Billingsley did not want to make any comment to the media.

It was not clear whether she went to court today.

A Ministerial Inquiry headed by former Treasury Secretary John Whitehead has been ordered to review MFAT's handling of the case.

How events unfolded

  • Muhammad Rizalman is arrested on 9 May after allegedly following a woman home in the Wellington suburb of Brooklyn
  • Mr Rizalman appears in court the next day on charges of burglary and assaulting a woman with an intent to rape
  • Mr Rizalman is released on bail with conditions
  • MFAT botch-up allows Mr Rizalman to return home on 22 May under diplomatic immunity
  • Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully defended his actions saying it was appropriate for him to leave the matter with MFAT officials
  • Alleged victim Tania Billingsley goes to court in early July so her name and story can be reported by TV3's 3rd Degree programme on 9 July
  • Ms Billingsley calls for Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully to resign and said she had no formal apology
  • A Ministerial Inquiry is announced two days later on 22 July
  • Mr Rizalman undergoes psychiatric testing in Malaysia in August
  • Malaysian media reported in September that the country was getting ready to send Mr Rizalman back but was waiting for New Zealand's request
  • A formal request was received from New Zealand on 3 October
  • Mr Rizalman boarded flight MH133 in Malaysia on 24 October and arrived back in New Zealand before his scheduled court appearance

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