Nepal cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane acquitted of rape on appeal

High court overturns eight-year jail sentence on appeal by former captain, who could now join the T20 World Cup squad.

Nepal's Sandeep Lamichhane attends a practice session ahead of the Asia Cup cricket match with India in Pallekele, Sri Lanka
Nepal's former cricket captain Sandeep Lamichhane was convicted of raping an 18-year-old woman in a Kathmandu hotel in 2022 [File: Eranga Jayawardena/AP]

Nepalese cricket star Sandeep Lamichhane’s rape conviction was quashed on appeal after the former national captain challenged an eight-year jail sentence for sexual assault handed down in January.

“The high court has overturned the district court’s decision. Sandeep Lamichhane has been acquitted,” Bimal Parajuli, a spokesman for the Patan High Court, told AFP news agency on Wednesday.

Lamichhane was convicted of raping an 18-year-old woman in a Kathmandu hotel in 2022.

Several Nepalese and Indian news outlets reported that Lamichhane is likely to be included in Nepal’s squad for the upcoming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.

Nepal named its provisional squad for the tournament earlier this month but changes can be made until the May 25 deadline set by the International Cricket Council.

Lamichhane, 23, has been the face of cricket in Nepal and the only player from the Himalayan country to take part in prominent Twenty20 leagues in India, Australia, Pakistan and the West Indies. The leg-spinner’s onfield success had boosted the sport’s profile in the Himalayan republic.

In 2022, he was accused of raping a young woman in a Kathmandu hotel and taken into custody after police issued an arrest warrant for him. He was later freed on bail and returned to the squad to compete in international tournaments.

Lamichhane was found guilty of rape in December after a repeatedly delayed trial.

When authorities issued an arrest warrant, Lamichhane initially failed to return from Jamaica, where he was playing in the Caribbean Premier League.

The leg-spinner was suspended as Nepal’s captain but was free to continue his sporting career. This allowed him to remain on the national team, including for the World Cup qualifiers and the 2023 Asia Cup.

Hundreds of cheering cricket fans welcomed him when he first returned to the field in February last year. But his continued playing career has also lead to anger and caused numerous Nepalese to disavow the team.

Scotland’s cricketers refused to shake hands with him after their matches during an international tournament in Dubai.

Source: News Agencies