Malaysia to send diplomat back to New Zealand to face charges

KUALA LUMPUR Wed Jul 2, 2014 7:13am EDT

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KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia will send a diplomat facing sexual assault charges back to New Zealand, where the alleged incident occurred in May, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday, a day after it said he would face an investigation at home.

A ministry statement said the government believed the decision "will provide an opportunity for Mr. Muhammad Rizalman to cooperate fully and assist the New Zealand authorities in the ongoing investigations into the allegations made against him".

Muhammad Rizalman Ismail, 38, a former defense ministry official attached to the high commission in Wellington, was arrested in early May for burglary and assault with intent to rape in an incident that involved a 21-year-old woman.

He claimed diplomatic immunity and fled back home with his family almost two weeks later.

The incident caused an uproar in New Zealand's media and Prime Minister John Key said he expected the diplomat to face charges.

On Tuesday, Malaysia's foreign minister Anifah Aman told reporters that Malaysia had offered to waive diplomatic immunity but was offered an alternative by New Zealand to allow the diplomat to return home.

(Reporting By Trinna Leong; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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