Malaysian officer in New Zealand pleads not guilty

AP News
Posted: Nov 20, 2014 9:42 PM
Malaysian officer in New Zealand pleads not guilty

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A Malaysian military officer who was extradited to New Zealand pleaded not guilty to sexual assault charges Friday.

Muhammad Rizalman Ismail chose to have a jury trial and remains on bail with conditions, after pleading not guilty to burglary and assault with the intent to rape. Each charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

Rizalman was working at the Malaysian Embassy in Wellington when he was arrested May 9 for allegedly following a 21-year-old woman home and assaulting her.

He left the country soon after under the protection of diplomatic immunity.

The case has proved embarrassing for both countries.

New Zealand initially blamed Malaysia for invoking immunity but then later conceded its officials may have given the mistaken impression they did not oppose Rizalman returning home.

Rizalman's next court appearance has been scheduled for February.