Malaysia to return envoy wanted in sex case to New Zealand

A MALAYSIAN envoy who left Wellington after being charged with burglary and sexually assaulting a 21-year-old woman will be returned to New Zealand to assist in investigations.

The Malaysian government's decision to send back defence staff assistant Muhammad Rizalman Ismail has been made known to New Zealand's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Murray McCully, this afternoon by his Malaysian counterpart Anifah Aman.

Muhammad Rizalman will be accompanied by a senior military officer from the Minister of Defence, according to a press statement issued by the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs today.

"Malaysia has complete faith in the New Zealand legal system and has full confidence that Mr Muhammad Rizalman will be given fair treatment with dignity as provided under the law," said the statement.

The case of Muhammad Rizalman has strained diplomatic ties between the two countries after the 38-year-old was arrested in early May on suspicion of burglary and assault with intent to rape. He allegedly broke into the house of a 21-year-old woman in Brooklyn and attacked her on the night of May 9.

After a court appearance on May 10, he flew back to Malaysia with his family on May 22 after claiming diplomatic immunity, sparking a diplomatic wrangle for his return to New Zealand to face charges.

"The Malaysian government is of the view that this decision (to send back Muhammad Rizalman) will provide an opportunity for Mr Muhammad Rizalman to cooperate fully and assist the New Zealand authorities in the on-going investigations on the allegations made against him.

"In this regard, the legal principle that one is considered innocent until proven guilty should apply to Mr Muhammad Rizalman. The government will provide legal assistance to Mr Muhammad Rizalman if necessary," according to the statement.

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