Doctors warn Rizalman may be unfit to travel

The return of a Malaysian diplomat to New Zealand to face a sex charge seems far from certain, as his doctors last night warned he may not be well enough to travel.

Malaysia's foreign minister said on Tuesday that diplomatic immunity was "not a licence" to commit crimes, after a junior diplomat returned home in disgrace from New Zealand using diplomatic immunity after being charged with sexual assault. Foreign Minister Anifah Aman told the media that "under no circumstances we allow our diplomats, although they have diplomatic immunity to commit crimes."

Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail has been in a military hospital since Tuesday. Malaysian authorities had earlier said he could be sent back tomorrow after medical checks.

But last night a source at Tuanku Mizan Military Hospital near Kuala Lumpur told the Herald on Sunday that Rizalman was "not looking good" and might need further tests.

He seemed withdrawn and depressed, the hospital staffer said.


A senior doctor at the hospital confirmed the 38-year-old might need further psychiatric evaluation.

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The Herald on Sunday last week revealed Rizalman invoked diplomatic immunity after being charged with burglary and assault with intent to rape. The issue became an embarrassment for our Government, which allowed him to leave.

It was revealed Foreign Minister Murray McCully and Prime Minister John Key were briefed about the May 9 incident in Wellington, but did nothing until the Herald on Sunday made inquiries last week.

An MFAT inquiry is under way amid apologies from McCully and MFAT boss John Allen. McCully had said New Zealand wanted Malaysia to waive immunity, but it emerged MFAT had not made that clear.

A decision on whether Rizalman is fit to stand trial rests with the Malaysian Government, and last night McCully could not give assurances the diplomat would return. The twist comes as fresh details emerge of the alleged offending.

It is alleged Rizalman followed a 21-year-old woman from a bus stop to her home in Brooklyn.

He allegedly broke into the house and undressed. The woman had fought her alleged attacker off and neighbours went to her aid.

The married father of three is alleged to have fled the house but waited outside for police to show up.

McCully refused to comment last night, saying the case was before the courts.

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Labour's foreign affairs spokesman David Shearer said the Malaysian Government had to be trusted to make a fair assessment.

"We've also got a victim here as well who deserves justice and I think it would be the right thing to have him brought back."

The New Straits Times reported that Rizalman was being closely guarded by army security personnel in a four-bed room he occupied alone.

Security cameras were also in the room. A reporter who caught a glimpse of Rizalman said he appeared to be in a daze.

A hospital staff member said those on 24-hour guard and closed-circuit television watch were "at-risk patients".

Meanwhile, Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammudin Hussein said he supported the decision to hand Rizalman over to New Zealand.

Speaking to reporters after breaking Ramadan fast on Friday, he said justice had to be done and seen to be done to ensure Malaysia's credibility and image was upheld internationally.

"But I hope society does not prejudge the accused as guilty until the New Zealand court comes to a decision," he said.