00:34 - Source: CNN
Animal poaching gets Bollywood star jail time
CNN —  

Bollywood superstar Salman Khan was released from jail Saturday after a court granted him bail while he appeals a prison sentence he received two days earlier for poaching in a case that has riveted India.

Bollywood superstar Salman Khan has been sentenced to serve five years in prison after being convicted of illegal poaching in a decades-old case, prosecutors said Thursday.

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

Hundreds of fans and supporters 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, after posting 50,000 Indian rupees ($770) bail and leaving jail, was driven to Jodhpur’s airport and was expected to return home to Mumbai.

As conditions for his bail, Khan has been banned from traveling outside India without the court’s permission and has to appear before the court May 7, said one of his attorneys, Anand Desai.

High court had acquitted him in two earlier hunting cases

Thursday’s conviction against the 52-year-old actor stem from the last of three cases of alleged poaching that was pursued against him, all three relating to 1998 hunts in Rajasthan.

In the first two cases, covering two hunts in late September 1998, a court sentenced him to jail, but he appealed, was released on bail, and a higher court acquitted him in 2016.

Thursday’s conviction relates to the third case: A hunt in early October 1998. Prosecutors alleged Khan shot 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 lawyers 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, Singh said.

Anand Desai, a lawyer for Khan, said in a statement that his client has applied for an urgent hearing to the case in a higher court, which will be heard Friday morning.

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, claiming the evidence presented was not sufficient.

The son of Indian screenwriter Salim Khan, Salman Khan 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 whenever seen in public – and despite his brushes with the law, is still one of Bollywood’s biggest draws.

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

Forbes ranked him 71st in their 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 number 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.

CNN’s Joshua Berlinger contributed to this report.