High Court Acquits Former Cricket Captain Lamichhane of Rape Charge

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High Court Acquits Former Cricket Captain Lamichhane of Rape Charge

Kathmandu: Nepal’s cricket star Sandeep Lamichhane had his eight-year jail sentence for rape quashed on appeal on Wednesday after the former national captain challenged his conviction, AFP reported.

According to the French news agency, Lamichhane was once the poster boy for cricket in Nepal and his onfield success as a leg-spinner dramatically boosted the sport's profile in the country.

He was accused of raping a young woman in a Kathmandu hotel in 2022 but was freed on bail and returned to the team to compete in international tournaments while his lengthy trial dragged on.

The 23-year-old was convicted of rape late last year and sentenced in January but remained at liberty after challenging the verdict.

"Sandeep Lamichhane has been acquitted," Patan High Court spokesman Bimal Parajuli told AFP.

Lamichhane, who was suspended by the Cricket Association of Nepal after the initial verdict, has consistently denied the charge against him and enjoyed strong public support despite the accusation.

In 2022, when an arrest warrant in the case was first issued, Lamichhane initially failed to return from Jamaica, where he was playing in the Caribbean Premier League.

He was dismissed as national captain and arrested but Nepal lifted his playing ban after he was freed on bail. This allowed him to remain on the national team, including for the World Cup qualifiers and the 2023 Asia Cup, AFP further reported.

But his continued playing career has also sparked anger and caused some Nepalis to disavow the team. Scotland's cricketers refused to shake hands with him after their matches during an international tournament in Dubai.

Wednesday's acquittal comes with the Nepali team in the United States to prepare ahead of next month's T20 World Cup.

Lamichhane was the most sought-after Nepali cricketer in lucrative leagues around the world. The leg-spinner's big break came when he was snapped up for the Indian Premier League, the world's richest cricket tournament, in 2018.

About 2,300 rape cases were reported in Nepal in the 2021-22 fiscal year, according to police, but rights advocates say many more assaults go unreported. -- AFP


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