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New Zealand woman in sex assault case speaks out

Wednesday - 7/9/2014, 8:30am  ET

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- A New Zealand woman who says she was sexually assaulted by a Malaysian military official decided to identify herself Wednesday and is criticizing the handling of her case.

Tania Billingsley, 21, told television network TV3 that she thinks New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully should resign because he didn't keep track of the case and later tried to blame others for missteps.

McCully said in a statement that he had publicly apologized to Billingsley for "the poor management of this case."

Muhammad Rizalman Ismail was working at the Malaysian Embassy in Wellington when he was detained May 9 and later charged with burglary and assault with intent to rape.

He claimed diplomatic immunity and returned home May 22.

New Zealand officials at first blamed Malaysia for invoking diplomatic immunity, but later acknowledged they may have given Malaysian officials the mistaken impression they didn't oppose such a move.

Malaysia has since promised that Muhammad Rizalman will return to face the charges.

Billingsley said she felt "frustrated" and "angry" that Muhammad Rizalman had been able to leave New Zealand.

"I guess that I'm someone who has something to say about this assault," she said. "It happened to me and throughout this whole process, especially once it's become so public, my voice hasn't been heard."

Billingsley told TV3 that she considers herself a feminist and an activist against what she describes as a culture that's tolerant of rape.

She earlier asked a court to lift name suppression, which is automatically given to victims or alleged victims in sexual assault cases.

Police Superintendent Sam Hoyle said in a statement Wednesday that police hadn't opposed her court move.


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