Convicted Bollywood star Salman Khan gets bail for appeal over antelope killing

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Salman Khan was granted bail Saturday while he appeals a five-year prison sentence for killing endangered wildlife two decades ago.

Khan spent two nights in prison after a court in Rajasthan state convicted him on Thursday of killing endangered antelope known as black bucks during a hunting trip in 1998.

His lawyers maintain there was no evidence that the black bucks were shot, arguing that they died of natural causes such as overeating.

Khan, reportedly one of the world’s highest paid movie stars, was granted bail on a bond of 50,000 rupees ($770 or €625), according to his lawyer Mahesh Bora.

Local media reports indicated the 52-year-old celebrity should leave the Jodhpur prison — 550 kilometers (340 miles) southwest of Delhi — by late Saturday.

Prosecutor Mahipal Bishnoi told journalists that Khan will have to return to court on May 7.

Khan enjoys a cult-like following in India and fans began celebrating outside the courthouse Saturday when news of his release became known.  

Members of the local Bishnoi community, which pursued the charges against Khan for 20 years, celebrate the movie star's conviction.

Bishnoi community members, who pursued the charges against Khan for 20 years, celebrate the movie star’s conviction

Shot or natural causes?

But the PETA animal rights group was disappointed by the bail decision.

“While Salman Khan gets to go back home to his movie star life for now, black bucks were made to pay the highest price, with their lives,” Manilal Valliyate, CEO of PETA India, said in a statement.

Read more: Khan cleared in deadly hit-and-run

Khan has starred in more than 90 Hindi language movies. He was Prisoner 106 in jail and reportedly skipped the jail’s no-frills food but not his exercise. 

Khan has accused Rajasthan’s forest department of trying to frame him.

Four other Bollywood stars — Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam Kothari — were also accused in the case, but were acquitted due to lack of evidence.

Read more: Poll on Khan

bik/jm (AFP, AP)

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