Bollywood star Salman Khan jailed for five years for killing endangered antelopes

The case focused on the alleged illegal hunting of blackbucks in 1998

Bollywood star Salman Khan jailed for five years for killing endangered antelopes

Bollywood star Salman Khan, second left, arrives to appear before a court in Jodhpur, Rajasthan state, India. Picture by: Sunil Verma/AP/Press Association Images

Bollywood superstar Salman Khan has been jailed for five years for poaching endangered antelopes at a wildlife preserve two decades ago.

The 52-year-old actor, who was at the hearing in Jodhpur, in Rajasthan state, was also handed a 10,000 rupee (€125) fine as he was led into custody.

Chief Judicial Magistrate Dev Kumar Khatri reportedly described the star as a "habitual offender" as he was sentenced.

Khan was driven away amid chaotic scenes outside court and is expected to start serving his sentence at a local prison.

"A warrant has been issued in his name and he will be sent to Central Jail," said Prosecutor Mahipal Bishnoi.

Indian media reports suggest it could take days for Khan's legal team to apply for bail and appeal the conviction over the 20-year-old case which threatens to derail his illustrious career.

Four other stars - Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam - were also accused in the case related to the illegal hunting of blackbucks in 1998, but were acquitted due to a lack of evidence.

The incident happened in the village of Kankani, near Jodhpur, in western India, when the cast had gathered to shoot Indian family drama Hum Saath Saath Hain.

They were in the jeep that Salman Khan was believed to be driving during the hunt.

A member of the Bishnoi community, a religious sect which opposes the killing of animals, claimed to have witnessed the shooting.

Indian TV footage showed members cheering and applauding the court sentence.

Allegations

Khan has denied the allegations throughout, with his lawyers arguing the blackbucks died of natural causes such as overeating, and that there was no evidence to suggest they had been shot.

He had been sentenced to prison terms of between one and five years for convictions in related cases which he was later acquitted of following successful appeals.

Hundreds of police officers were deployed outside the court on Thursday to keep back fans who had turned up to catch a glimpse of the much-revered celebrity.

He arrived for the proceedings wearing a black shirt and dark sunglasses in a white SUV, flanked by security.

Mr Bishnoi had earlier told reporters that Khan's legal team had argued for a lean sentence for the offence which carries a maximum prison term of six years.

"They are praying for probation, they are emphasising on the minimum sentence," he said.
It is not the first time Khan - who has culivated an image as a Bollywood "bad boy" - has been in trouble with the law.

In 2015, Bombay High Court overturned his conviction in a 2002 hit-and-run case in which he was accused of running over a group of people sleeping on a pavement, killing one.

The government of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, has challenged his acquittal in the Supreme Court.