Bollywood superstar Salman Khan one of the world’s best-paid actors has been sentenced to five years in jail for poaching a Indian antelope back in 1998.
Public prosecutors alleged that Khan, 52, and four other actors in the car with him fled the scene when they were spotted, leaving the animals’ carcasses behind.
The other actors, among them Saif Ali Khan and Sonali Bendre, were acquitted by the court in Jodhpur for lack of evidence.
The Indian court has issued a five-year sentence and fined Khan 10,000 rupees (£109). His lawyers said they would appeal against the decision. and an urgent bail hearing had been scheduled.
Khan was taken to Jodhpur central jail after visiting a local hospital for a medical examination
Hundreds of police surrounded the courtroom in Jodhpur to keep back fans of the actor, known for his bad-boy image and macho film roles.
Khan’s lawyer Anand Desai said in a statement he was surprised by the judgment as the facts of the case mirrored those the Rajasthan high court had relied on to suspend his client’s conviction for the same crime in 2007.
He also questioned why the other accused has been let free, which he said implied “that Salman was out hunting alone in the middle of the night in a remote area outside Jodhpur”.
At the time of the poaching, blackbucks were regarded as a vulnerable animal, but have since been reclassified as a species of “least concern”, though they remain protected by Indian wildlife regulations.
Khan was first arrested in the poaching case in October 1998 after reports emerged that he had hunted the two antelope and at least three other gazelles.
Eight years later, he was convicted of killing the blackbucks and sentenced to five years in prison, a decision he appealed to the Rajasthan high court, which suspended the sentence in August 2007 after the actor had spent two short stints in jail.
The charges were revised and laid again the following year, and have hung over Khan for the past decade, preventing him from obtaining a UK visa in 2013 until the Rajasthan government asked the court to give him leeway to travel.
Khan’s conviction is making waves on both mainstream and social media.