KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia will send a junior military official back to New Zealand where he faces sexual assault and burglary charges, its Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.
The official was working at Malaysia’s embassy in Wellington when he was detained on May 9. He claimed diplomatic immunity and returned home on May 22.
Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Second Warrant Officer Muhammad Rizalman Ismail will return to Wellington “to assist in the investigation” there. It did not specify when he would return, or whether he would still have diplomatic immunity.
It said Foreign Minister Anifah Aman conveyed the decision to New Zealand, and that Malaysia has “complete faith in the New Zealand legal system.”
New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully welcomed the announcement.
“I want to convey my thanks to the Malaysian government for this very welcome development which underlines the good faith and integrity with which they have approached this issue,” he said in a statement.
Anifah earlier said Muhammad Rizalman worked at the Malaysian High Commission in Wellington for the past year as a defense staff assistant when he was detained for allegedly following a 21-year-old woman home and assaulting her. He was charged with burglary and assault with the intent to rape, each of which carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said after the official returned home that it was New Zealand’s “very strong preference” that the man face trial in New Zealand.
Malaysian Foreign Ministry officials said the official was not being formally extradited, and instead was going to New Zealand to help with the investigation. A New Zealand court has issued a warrant for his arrest.