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Diplomat from South Sudan accused of rape in NYC is released after invoking immunity

Charles Oliha, 46, was arrested Sunday after the alleged assault in an apartment. He is back in South Sudan and has been suspended by the nation's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

A diplomat from South Sudan accused of raping a woman in New York City over the weekend has been released due to his diplomatic immunity, officials said. 

Charles Oliha, 46, a diplomat with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Sudan, allegedly pushed his way into the victim’s apartment Sunday at midnight and raped her two separate times, two sources with the New York Police Department told NBC New York. 

The woman reported to police that on Sunday at midnight she arrived to her building and the suspect opened the front door, followed her up the steps and forced his way into her apartment, the NYPD said. He forced her to engaged in sexual intercourse then fled, police said. 

The victim was taken to Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center for evaluation, the police sources said. 

Oliha was arrested and it was discovered he was a Minister of Foreign Affairs with diplomatic status from South Sudan. 

The intelligence bureau was notified and confirmed he has full diplomatic immunity. Following consultation with the Legal Bureau, the diplomat was released at 5:09 a.m. without charges, the sources said. 

A spokesperson from the United Nation’s Secretary-General António Guterres called the incident concerning and said Oliha is not a United Nations staffer. 

“Any case of alleged sexual assault needs to be fully investigated,” Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the U.N. secretary-general, said. “This particular case involves a member of the Permanent Mission of South Sudan who is not a staff member of the United Nations. This is a bilateral issue between South Sudan and the U.S. authorities.”

“We will continue to follow the matter closely,” she added.

Less than a week after the alleged assault and his release, Oliha is back in South Sudan and has been suspended, South Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation said Thursday in a statement.

The ministry said that it learned of the incident Tuesday morning and that Oliha was a diplomat with the Permanent Mission in New York.  

“It is with regret that our diplomat was involved in an alleged rape incident with one of New York City residents,” the statement said.

“The leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation took the decision to immediately recall the diplomat in question, pending a full investigation from a specialized committee. The diplomat in question is now back in South Sudan and has been suspended from his duties, awaiting the outcome of this investigation,” it continued.

The ministry denounced sexual misconduct “in any shape or form “ as “heinous and wholly unacceptable.”

“We are committed to working closely with the relevant U.S. authorities to take the appropriate action, following the outcome of all investigations,” the statement said.  

The incident is under investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, which said it is supporting the survivor through its Witness Aid Services Unit, a spokesperson said.  

State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said in a press briefing Wednesday the department is aware of the incident and working closely with the NYPD and New York City's Mayor’s Office of International Affairs.