Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Australia/Oceania

Newsline: Australian embassy in Washington deals with US ban

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says officials are in talks with US counterparts to get clarity on how the order may affect Australians. “The Australian embassy in Washington is engaging with US officials on the potential implications of the suspension for Australian travellers, including dual nationals,” a spokeswoman told AAP in a statement. All travellers are being warned that rules could change at short notice. “Travellers should contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the United States for the most current information,” the spokeswoman added. Australians who hold passports from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen may potentially be turned away from the US. The government’s Smarttraveller website has updated its notifications warning travellers to the US about the controversial new rules. Australians who are dual citizens of Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria will no longer be allowed to apply for the standard electronic travel authorisation – ETSA – which travellers must complete before heading to the US. The ETSA is an online application that determines entry eligibility based on security or police risks. All those affected will have to apply for a non-immigrant visa at a US embassy or consulate.


Newsline: Russian diplomat slams Australian PM’s intention ‘to shirtfront’ Putin

A Russian diplomat in Australia called the remark of Australian PM Tony Abbott about his intention to “shirtfront” Vladimir Putin “immature.” He reminded the Aussie politician that he might be “very fit” but Putin is “a professional judo wrestler.” Abbot’s scandalous remark came on Monday after he told journalists that he is going to “shirtfront” the Russian president on the sidelines of G20 summit over the tragedy of the Malaysian airliner crash in the Donetsk Region of Ukraine in July. “I am going to shirtfront Mr Putin – you bet I am – I am going to be saying to Mr Putin Australians were murdered, they were murdered by Russian backed rebels,” Abbott said. Shirtfront is a football technique for a front-on chest bump or rough handling aimed at knocking your rival backward to the ground. It’s “a reportable offence and considered illegal,” says the Australian Football Rules website. The Russian Embassy in Australia, however, didn’t let Abbot’s remark go unnoticed. Third secretary of the Russian Embassy in Canberra, Aleksandr Odoevsky, told the Australian Associated Press that the remarks of the Australian PM were “immature.”


Newsline: Malaysia denies ‘dragging feet’ over extradition of ex-envoy to New Zealand

Malaysia confirmed on Thursday (Oct 9) it has received the official request to arrange for former diplomat Muhammad Rizalman Ismail to be sent back to New Zealand to face criminal charges, and denied it is “dragging its feet on the matter”. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement said it received the request for extradition on Oct 3, about five months after the case first transpired. It has forwarded the request to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Attorney General Chambers for further action. Second Warrant Officer Muhammad Rizalman, formerly the defence staff assistant at the High Commission of Malaysia in Wellington, was charged in a New Zealand court with burglary and assault with intent to commit rape. He was arrested in Wellington after allegedly following a 21-year-old woman and attacking her in her home. The arrest sparked talks between the two countries as the Vienna Convention prevents diplomats from being arrested or detained in host countries for any crime. The ministry said it would like to reiterate that given the excellent bilateral relations between Malaysia and New Zealand, and taking into account the strong public interest in the case, the extradition request will undergo the due process of the law.


Newsline: New Zealand seeks extradition of Malaysian diplomat on sex attack charges

New Zealand officials have formally requested the extradition of a Malaysian diplomat accused of a sex attack in Wellington, Radio New Zealand reported Friday. Defense attach Muhammad Rizalman, 35, was charged in May with assault with intent to rape a woman, but claimed diplomatic immunity and fled the country. In early September, a Malaysian news website said the government there was ready to send Rizalman back to New Zealand to stand trial and it was waiting for a request from the New Zealand government to do so, said the report. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) told Radio New Zealand Friday there was no extradition treaty between New Zealand and Malaysia, but lawyers had been working through complex legal arrangements. New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully on Friday announced a ministerial inquiry into the way diplomatic officials enabled Rizalman to flee the country, after the alleged victim of the attack, who was 21 at the time, publicly called on MCully to resign over MFAT’s “incompetent” handling of the case. Rizalman was allowed to return to Malaysia — despite an official New Zealand request for Malaysia to waive diplomatic immunity — because MFAT officials had given the Malaysian authorities the impression in unofficial talks that New Zealand would not object if he left the country.


Newsline: US Embassy gate crash driver found not guilty in Australia

A man who rammed the front gates of the United States Embassy in Yarralumla last year has escaped conviction on mental health grounds. Adrian Richardson, 30, absconded from the mental health unit at the Canberra Hospital when he drove his orange Peugeot hatchback into the embassy’s main security gate on the evening of July 10, 2013. He previously pleaded not guilty to intentionally destroying or damaging an official residence of an internationally protected person and appeared during a brief trial in the ACT Supreme Court on Tuesday. Justice John Burns told the court the case was unusual because both Crown prosecutors and Richardson’s defence team agreed on the facts of the incident and were arguing he should not be found guilty. The court heard Richardson had left the hospital’s mental health high dependency unit, where he was treated as an in-patient for five days, before he drove towards the embassy. He revved the car’s engine and accelerated into the 3.4 metre-high gates, which caused significant damage to the gates and breached the embassy’s perimeter. Richardson, who is from Queensland, was stopped by police and security guards when he got out of the car unharmed. Mental health professionals diagnosed Mr Richardson with a psychotic illness and said he suffered from a delusional disorder, the court heard. The court heard the embassy gates were later replaced at a cost of $15,200. The jury deliberated for just 15 minutes before delivering its verdict. It found Richardson not guilty due to mental impairment.


Newsline: New Zealand Starts Extraditing Malaysian Envoy Accused Of Sexual Assault

New Zealand has begun the process of extraditing a Malaysian diplomat accused of trying to rape a 21-year-old Kiwi woman almost five months ago. The New Zealand government officials formally applied for Muhammad Rizalman Ismail’s extradition. “Lawyers from both governments have been sharing documents and working through technically complex legal arrangements,” the spokesman was quoted as saying. “The ministry is satisfied progress is being made and appreciates the on-going co-operation of the Malaysian government. An announcement will be made once the arrangements are finalised. The process was complex because there is no extradition treaty between New Zealand and Malaysia,” the spokesman added. Muhammad Rizalman was arrested by Kiwi police on May 9 and charged a day later with alleged burglary and assault with intent to commit rape on 21-year-old Tania Billingsley, with both charges carrying the maximum penalty of a 10-year jail term. The junior envoy’s subsequent invocation of diplomatic immunity and return home sparked an embarrassing public spat between New Zealand and Malaysia, following allegations that he had abused diplomatic privilege to escape punishment. Muhammad Rizalman had been scheduled to be sent back to New Zealand in July, but this was delayed after a psychiatric examination found him to be depressed and withdrawn; a second round of tests was then called to determine his fitness to travel.


Newsline: Cambodian protesters clash with police outside Australian embassy ahead of refugee resettlement deal

Cambodian protesters clashed with police outside the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh, as Immigration Minister Scott Morrison prepared to sign a deal in which the impoverished South-East Asian country would resettle Australian-bound refugees. At least one protester was knocked down by police, suffered a cut head and was dragged away during the protests, as more than 100 Cambodians demanded Canberra abandon the agreement. Cambodia’s Minister of Interior, Sar Kheng, told reporters in Cambodia on Friday that the resettlement deal, to be signed at a table in a bare meeting hall in Phnom Penh with a tiny Australian flag and a tiny Cambodian flag on the table, by Mr Morrison and Mr Kheng, will initially involve a small number of refugees moving to Cambodia under a pilot project.