The Bollywood actor Salman Khan has been given a five-year jail sentence after he was found guilty of poaching two blackbuck antelopes. The case has gripped movie-obsessed India for the past two decades.
An Indian court on Thursday handed Salman Khan a five-year jail term after finding him guilty of poaching two rare antelope back in 1998.
The court in Jodhpur convicted the 52-year-old actor of killing two blackbucks, which are a protected species under the Indian Wildlife Act, while he was shooting a movie in the state of Rajasthan. Khan can appeal the verdict.
The actor was also fined a relatively small sum of money — 10,000 rupees ($150, €125).
Four other actors — Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam - who were working with him on the film and who had also been charged with the offense, were acquitted.
Mahipal Bishnoi, a prosecuting lawyer, said the court was hearing arguments on the appropriate sentence for the actor.
Police were deployed in their hundreds outside the courtroom in Jodhpur to keep away the crowd of fans that had gathered to support the body-building actor, who is best known for his macho roles. Khan has claimed that Rajasthan's forestry department was trying to frame him. Lawyers for the actor said the blackbuck had died of a natural cause such as overeating.
The Bishnoi Sabha, a Hindu community that considers wild animals sacred and is committed to protecting the blackbucks, has said it will appeal against the other actors' acquittals.
It's not the first time that Khan has found himself in court.
In December 2015, Khan was acquitted of running over five homeless people and killing one of them with his SUV in 2002 after the prosecution "failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt" that he was behind the wheel.
In an unrelated case, he was acquitted in December 2015 of shooting and killing a gazelle and two antelopes in separate incidents, after previously being convicted by a lower court. That case had also been brought by the Bishnoi community.
The actor, who is known as "Bhai," meaning "brother" in Hindi, has a cult-like status among his fans and is one of Bollywood's biggest draws. He has starred in more than 100 films and television shows.
Khan's most recent blockbuster "Tiger Zinda Hai" (Tiger is alive) grossed some $85 million worldwide.
rc/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)