WELLINGTON (AFP) – A Malaysian military attache extradited to New Zealand to face an attempted rape charge was remanded in custody following a brief court appearance on Saturday.
Muhammad Rizalman Ismail, who stood silently in the dock as Malaysian High Commission staff watched from the public gallery, will reappear in court on Tuesday.
Rizalman was flown from Kuala Lumpur to New Zealand under police escort on Friday and spent the night in custody in Auckland before being put on a flight to Wellington on Saturday for his court appearance.
He had fled home to Malaysia in May after invoking diplomatic immunity when accused of stalking and attempting to rape 21-year-old Tania Billingsley at her home in the same Wellington suburb where Malaysia’s High Commission is located.
Rizalman, who was a defence staff assistant at the High Commission, faces a jail term of up to 10 years if found guilty.
Billingsley has waived her right to anonymity granted in sex cases under New Zealand law to express her frustration at how the case had been handled.
She said in a television interview in July that New Zealand officials appeared more concerned about hushing the matter up and avoiding a diplomatic incident than ensuring justice was served.
News media attempts to film and photograph Rizalman’s court appearance were rejected after defence lawyer Donald Stevens argued the high volume of publicity damaged his client’s right to a fair trial.