Rizalman in NZ court with self-appointed counsel

Muhammad Rizalman Ismail

PUTRAJAYA - Second Warrant Officer Muhammad Rizalman Ismail has appointed a counsel as he is set to be produced in a Wellington court today over charges of burglary and assault in the New Zealand capital.

"He has his lawyer; he appointed one himself. The lawyer is not appointed by the Government," a Wisma Putra official told Bernama.

The former defence staff assistant at the Malaysian High Commission in New Zealand was extradited yesterday following an official request made on Oct 3.

The 38-year-old father-of-three departed for Auckland on a Malaysia Airlines flight from KL International Airport (KLIA) at 8.55am yesterday.

He is scheduled to arrive in Wellington via a domestic flight at about 10.30am today, before his court appearance shortly after.

Members of the media, who were at KLIA as early as 6am, left disappointed after they were given the slip by Muhammad Rizalman before his departure.

It is learnt that Muhammad Rizalman avoided the media and public attention as he was brought to the aircraft via a "special entrance".

The official said Muhammad Rizalman was accompanied by two Malaysian Defence Ministry personnel and two New Zealand police officers on the flight.

He was escorted into the plane without handcuffs and has reportedly expressed his wish to voluntarily return to New Zealand.

Muhammad Rizalman was detained by New Zealand police on May 9 and was brought to court the following day to face charges of house break-in and sexual assault with intention to rape 21-year-old Tania Billingsley at her home in Wellington on May 9.

He and his family flew home on May 22 after Malaysia invoked his diplomatic immunity, and the Defence Ministry, to which the accused is attached, immediately launched an investigation into the case.

He reportedly underwent a psychiatric evaluation at the Tuanku Mizan Military Hospital upon his return and was discharged at the end of July.

The Foreign Ministry had on Thursday expressed confidence of a fair trial for Muhammad Rizalman in the New Zealand court.