Bollywood star Salman Khan jailed for five years for poaching antelope


MUMBAI/NEW DELHI (Reuters) – A Rajasthan court jailed Bollywood star Salman Khan for five years for poaching on Thursday, lawyers said, a sentence likely to derail the career of one of the country’s most popular actors.

Bollywood actor Salman Khan (2nd L) arrives at a court in Jodhpur in the western state of Rajasthan, India, April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

Khan, 52, was found guilty of violating wildlife laws by killing a blackbuck, an endangered species of antelope, in 1998. Four other Bollywood actors accused in the case were acquitted.

The stocky Khan wore a black shirt and sunglasses as he entered the court followed by an entourage of aides. Television footage later showed police escorting him to jail in Jodhpur, in Rajasthan.

Television said Khan planned to appeal against the sentence. His lawyer, Anand Desai, told Reuters he had submitted a plea for bail which a judge will hear on Friday.

The case was brought by members of a community known as the Bishnoi, who revere antelopes. The community has pursued the case against Khan for almost two decades and cheered the decision by setting off firecrackers near the courthouse and handing out sweets.

Actor Salman Khan poses for a picture on the Green Carpet at the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards show at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, U.S., July 15, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Penney/File Photo

Four other Bollywood actors accused in the case – Saif Ali Khan, Neelam, Tabu and Sonali Bendre – were acquitted, prosecution lawyer Mahipal Bishnoi said.

Some actors came out in Khan’s support. “I feel this is too harsh. I do hope he gets the relief he deserves,” Arjun Rampal said.

Khan has had a history of run-ins with the law.

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In 2015, Bombay High Court overturned his conviction in a hit-and-run case in which he was accused of running over a group of people sleeping on a city sidewalk, killing one and injuring four.

Last year, another court in Jodhpur acquitted Khan in a separate poaching case, ruling that there was no proof that Khan had killed an endangered gazelle.

Khan has made a series of blockbuster hits in the last few years with the latest in December, “Tiger Zinda Hai”, grossing more than 3 billion rupees ($52 million) at the box office.

His next film, “Race 3”, is an action thriller scheduled for release later in the year.

The court’s ruling against Khan, who has 32.5 million followers on Twitter and was promoting his movie last week, sparked worries among Bollywood traders.

“If he doesn’t get bail, then the jail term will have repercussions,” said Girish Johar, a trade analyst. “He is a big star, and has a lot of big films lined up, all scheduled to be released over the next two years.”

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