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Bollywood star Salman Khan released from jail while appealing poaching sentence

Bollywood superstar Salman Khan was granted bail Saturday, his attorney said, while he appeals the prison sentence he...

Posted: Apr 8, 2018 6:01 AM
Updated: Apr 8, 2018 6:01 AM

Bollywood superstar Salman Khan was granted bail Saturday, his attorney said, while he appeals the prison sentence he'd received two days earlier for illegal poaching in a case that has riveted the country.

Khan, one of India's most recognizable and bankable actors, was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison Thursday for killing two blackbucks, a type of antelope found in the country, while working on a film in the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan in 1998.

Khan's attorneys filed an appeal against the sentence in a higher court and asked for bail, which was granted Saturday.

The case has been closely followed by fans and supporters, hundreds of whom celebrated the bail decision by cheering and setting off firecrackers outside the court Saturday in the Rajasthan city of Jodhpur.

His trial generated significant media coverage throughout India, with many news channels giving his case wall-to-wall coverage.

Khan must pay 50,000 Indian rupees ($770) bail, cannot travel outside India without the court's permission and has to appear before the court on May 7, said one of his attorneys, Anand Desai.

The actor was released from jail later Saturday after the court granted him bail.

Prosecutors alleged the 52-year-old shot the two blackbucks while out driving with some of his co-stars.

Khan pleaded not guilty and has long maintained his innocence as the case has languished in legal limbo over the years. Khan's attorneys said he was carrying an air gun, which cannot be used for hunting an antelope.

The other actors, Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam Kothari, were charged with abetting a crime but were acquitted Thursday.

Desai had said the actor's sentence was a surprise, in part because a high court had acquitted him of charges relating to two earlier hunts in Rajasthan.

Khan has long been known as one of Bollywood's bad boys and has been in trouble with the law before. In 2015 he was found guilty in a deadly hit-and-run accident and received a five-year prison sentence. A higher court later tossed the conviction, saying the evidence presented was not sufficient.

The son of Indian screenwriter Salim Khan, the actor made his movie debut in 1988, and his career took off shortly after.

Today he's considered one of India's biggest celebrities -- to the point where he's often mobbed in public -- and is still one of Bollywood's biggest draws despite his brushes with the law.

Khan has more than 32 million followers on Twitter and another 15.3 million on Instagram.

Forbes ranked him 71st in its list of the world's highest-paid celebrities and the ninth-highest paid actor, estimating he raked in $37 million in 2017. Fellow Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, at No. 8 on the list, is the only Indian actor to have earned more than him last year.

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this story, the date of Salman Khan's sentencing and conviction was incorrect. He was sentenced and convicted Thursday.

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