Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Malaysian diplomat in custody after court appearance

A sex-assault accused Malaysian High Commission staff member who invoked diplomatic immunity to leave New Zealand has been escorted back into the country and has appeared in court this morning, almost six months after he was first arrested. Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail was arrested on May 10, and charged by Wellington police with burglary and assault with intent to rape, relating to an alleged attack on Tania Billingsley, 22, in the Wellington suburb of Brooklyn. Controversially, he was then able to leave New Zealand on May 22 after Malaysia refused to waive his right to invoke diplomatic immunity, only returning to New Zealand this morning. He was driven into the Wellington District Court at about 10am for his brief appearance. Rizalman appointed lawyer Dr Donald Stevens QC did not oppose the justice’s order to remand to custody. Rizalman wore a leather jacket in the dock and was supported by a contingent in the public gallery. He is scheduled to reappear in Wellington District Court on Tuesday.


Newsline: US ambassador to Canada was out of town during Ottawa attack

During the height of the attack on Canada’s capital Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman retweeted his Embassy’s statement that “we are currently on lockdown.” As it turns out, Ambassador Heyman, a former Chicago investment banker, was not locked down in the Embassy or even in Ottawa, the I-Team has learned. It is unclear where he was. Shortly after the shooting incidents at the Canadian War Memorial and the Parliament building, the I-Team contacted the Embassy and to do a phone or Skype interview with Ambassador Heyman. We were told by Embassy press assistant Jennifer Young that “the Ambassador is not available for interviews at this time.” We were not informed by Ms. Young that the ambassador was actually not present and his retweet that “we are currently on lockdown” suggested he was indeed hunkered down with his staff. A woman who answered Ambassador Heyman’s cell phone did not say that he was out of the office and took a message which was not returned. Heyman did not respond to emails or social media messages. On Thursday, after we reported that the ambassador was locked down with the rest of his staff, his public affairs chief Diane Sovereign contacted the I-Team, stating that “the Ambassador was not in the Embassy yesterday and has not returned to Ottawa.” As for his twitter post that “we are currently on lockdown” she said that “the Ambassador retweeted the Embassy’s notification to American Citizens that ‘we’ – meaning the Embassy – was currently on lockdown.” We repeatedly asked Embassy officials for the whereabouts of the ambassador during the incident and whether he was in Chicago. The spokesperson would not say where he was, nor why he wasn’t in the Embassy at the time of the attack that occurred about a quarter-mile away. His staff members at the Embassy were on security lockdown for more than eight hours on Wednesday. Mr. Heyman, a top Democratic fundraiser has only been on the job for seven months as the top U.S. diplomat in Canada.


Newsline: Sudanese envoy dies of malaria in Abuja

The Sudanese Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr Tagelsir Ali, is dead, the country’s embassy confirmed on Friday in Abuja. The Media Advisor to the embassy, Mr Mohammed Abdulrahman, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that Ali, 66, died at about 1a.m. on Friday at the National Hospital, Abuja. “He had malaria; there were some complications and he passed away around 1 a.m. early this morning. “He was 66 years old. He loved working in Nigeria and had zeal to develop the bilateral relationship between Sudan and Nigeria and was able to stretch himself very well,” he said. Ali was posted to Nigeria in February, 2012.


Newsline: Charged Malaysian diplomat arrives in New Zealand

The Malaysian diplomat accused of a sex assault on a wellington woman has arrived back in New Zealand to face charges of burglary and assault with intent to rape. Muhammad Rizalman Bin Ismail returned with two New Zealand police officers who escorted him from Malaysia. The 38-year-old was working for the Malaysian high commission in Wellington when it is alleged he attacked 22-year-old Tania Billingsley as she was making her way home in May. Police charged him at the time but a mix-up between New Zealand and Malaysian officials meant he returned home under diplomatic immunity before entering a plea. The government has faced heavy criticism for their handling of the case.


Newsline: Kyrgyzstan opens embassy in Azerbaijan

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev signed a decree “On the establishment of an embassy in Azerbaijan”. An embassy of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan is due to be established in Azerbaijan with an office in Baku, the decree says. The decree was posted on the president’s website Oct. 24.


Newsline: US Embassy In Ottawa On Lockdown Following Shooting

A soldier standing guard at Canada’s National War Memorial in Ottawa was fatally shot by an unknown gunman, who was later killed in a shootout inside the Parliament building, police say. The Parliament itself remains on lockdown. Royal Canadian Mounted Police warned people in downtown Ottawa to stay away from windows and rooftops. The U.S. Embassy in Ottawa is on lockdown. “Due to shooting at Parliament Hill in #Ottawa earlier, we are currently on lockdown. We will update once further information is available,” the embassy said.


Newsline: International embassies in London are worth £4billion

International embassies across London are worth a staggering £4 billion between them, according to a new study. The 140 properties across the city range from the U.S.’s new £600million purpose built fortress in south London to the £750,000 suburban semi in Acton, west London used by North Korea. The research found eight embassies are estimated to be worth £100million or more, with most located in some of London’s most expensive postcodes in Kensington, Knightsbridge and Belgravia. The study also reveals that if the tiny Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu – halfway between Hawawii and Australia – was to sell off its London consulate in Raynes Park, south west London, it would pay off 11 per cent of its national debt of £6.6million. In addition the figures show that Ecuador’s embassy near Harrods in Knightsbridge, currently home to international fugitive Julian Assange is valued at £15million but would increase in value if the Wikileaks founder finally left.



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