'Jetlagged' Rizalman finally faces judge in NZ court

'Jetlagged' Rizalman finally faces judge in NZ court

KUALA LUMPUR - After five months, Second Warrant Officer Muhammad Rizalman Ismail finally stood before a judge at the Wellington District Court in an appearance that lasted only minutes.

Accused of burglary and assault, the former defence staff assistant at the Malaysian High Commission in New Zealand has been remanded in custody.

At yesterday's proceedings, the 38-year-old stood quietly in the dock, dressed in a brown leather jacket and blue striped shirt, reported The New Zealand Herald.

There was a heavy presence of journalists in the court with officers reportedly from the Malaysian High Commission looking on from the public gallery.

Justice of Peace Hewitt Humphrey remanded Rizalman in custody and cancelled an arrest warrant issued on May 30.

New Zealand portal stuff.co.nz reported that prior to Rizalman's court appearance, Humphrey heard submissions on media applications for filming and photography in court.

Rizalman's lawyer Dr Donald Stevens QC argued that media coverage would damage his client's right to a fair trial and that pictures of him, "jetlagged" after a long flight, would not paint him in a good light.

Prosecutor Grant Burston, who appeared for the Crown, echoed those points but said the situation would change when he next appears in court.

Opposing the application, a media representative cited public interest, pointing out the widespread circulation of the accused's images and that other defendants were not afforded privacy when appearing in court "fatigued".

Humphrey agreed with the lawyers' submissions and granted footage of the proceedings but not of the defendant as he should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Stevens did not oppose the justice's order for remand, stuff.co.nz reported.

Rizalman left Malaysia at 8.55am on Friday and arrived in Wellington at about 10am yesterday (New Zealand time). He is scheduled to reappear in court on Tuesday.

He is accused of burglary and assault with intent to rape Tania Billingsley, 21, at her home on May 9.

Rizalman returned to Malaysia on May 22 after Wisma Putra invoked his diplomatic immunity.

He then underwent a psychiatric evaluation at the Tuanku Mizan Military Hospital and was discharged at the end of July.

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