Lamichhane, convicted of raping a woman in a Kathmandu hotel in 2022, will fight the ruling in a higher court.

A court in Nepal has sentenced the country’s highest-profile cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane to eight years in prison after he was convicted of raping an 18-year-old woman.

The former captain’s lawyer said he would launch a higher court appeal against the jail term.

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 last month after a repeatedly delayed trial. His lawyer said before the sentencing that Lamichhane would appeal against his conviction.

Kathmandu district court official Chandra Prasad Panthi said Lamichhane should also pay about $3,770 as a fine and compensation to the victim.

“We are not convinced about the decision of the court … The court has whimsically declared Sandeep to be a convict. Sandeep will go to the higher court for justice,” lawyer Saroj Ghimire told Reuters news agency on Wednesday.

Lamichhane, who is not in custody, was not in court for the sentencing and has consistently denied the charge against him and enjoyed strong public support despite the accusation.

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 sparked anger and caused numerous Nepalis to disavow the team.

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

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