Nepal’s star spin bowler Sandeep Lamichhane, who is free on bail while facing rape charges, has been picked for an upcoming international series, local cricket chiefs announced.

The selection sparked anger among women’s rights activists in the country, one of whom accused the Cricket Association of Nepal of “normalising gender-based violence”.

Lamichhane is accused of raping a 17-year-old girl in a Kathmandu hotel room last August.

But the 22-year-old will take the pitch at the upcoming World Cup League 2 tri-series against Scotland and Namibia, the CAN announced Thursday.

The decision was widely expected after the body early this month lifted a suspension against the player, who maintains his innocence.

“It is extremely disappointing but also worrisome. The institutional protection for him shows an attitude of normalising gender-based violence,” activist Hima Bista told AFP.

“The narrative is if you are a celebrity you can get away with anything... what about the victim?”

The CAN revealed the player’s inclusion for the February 14-21 home series on its official Twitter account.

“The board had taken disciplinary action against him and suspended him,” CAN president Chatur Bahadur Chand told AFP on February 1. “The new decision to lift the suspension will allow him to play games.”

A day earlier, Nepal’s attorney general had appealed a decision to free Lamichhane on a bond of two million rupees ($15,400). He had been in custody since his October 6 arrest at Kathmandu airport.

Lamichhane had been a poster boy for the rise of cricket in Nepal, which gained one-day international status in 2018.

His big break came when he was snapped up by the Delhi Capitals for the big-money Indian Premier League that year, and he has since been Nepal’s most sought-after cricketer.

Authorities issued an arrest warrant against him in September while he was away playing in the Caribbean Premier League.

Lamichhane was suspended as Nepal captain after the arrest warrant was issued.