An Indian court has sentenced Bollywood superstar Salman Khan to five years in jail for poaching rare antelope back in 1998. The court in Jodhpur also fined him 10,000 rupees ($154; £109) for the crime. He has since been taken to jail.
Khan killed the two blackbucks, a protected species, in the western state of Rajasthan while shooting a film. Four other actors who starred with him in the movie and were also charged with the offence have been acquitted.
Khan, 52, can appeal against the verdict in a higher court. Correspondents say he will have to spend at least a few days in prison.
What is behind the Salman Khan case?
This is the fourth case filed against the actor in connection with poaching animals during the filming of the 1998 movie Hum Saath Saath Hain. In 2006, a trial court convicted the actor in two cases of poaching and sentenced him separately to one year and five years in prison. The Rajasthan high court suspended the sentences the following year, and eventually quashed both convictions in 2016.
The state government has appealed against that order in the Supreme Court. Khan was then acquitted of a third case in 2017, which was for possessing unlicensed weapons used to poach the wildlife in 1998.
The original poaching complaint against him was filed by the local Bishnoi community, who revere and worship the blackbuck. In December 2015, Khan was cleared in a 2002 hit-and-run case in which a homeless man died and four others were in injured. His car allegedly ran over them while they were sleeping on a street in the western city of Mumbai.
A lower court had convicted him in May 2015. During his trial, Khan had argued that his driver had been behind the wheel, but the judge said it was the actor who had been driving under the influence of alcohol.
Seven months later, the high court acquitted him. It said that key evidence – including testimony from a policeman who had since died – was not reliable. In January 2017, Khan was also acquitted in another case that charged him with using illegal firearms to kill the blackbucks.
One of Bollywood’s biggest stars, the actor has appeared in more than 100 films and has a huge fan following across the vast spectrum of Indian society.
His fans include the middle-class English-speaking audiences as well as poor slum dwellers for whom the 350-rupee ($5.20; £3.40) tickets do not come cheap.
Known for his romantic roles as well as action films, Khan has won several prestigious Indian cinema awards. The eldest of the three sons of well-known screenplay writer Salim Khan, he is a hit on social media too – his Facebook page is liked by more than 36 million fans, while on Twitter he has 32.5 million followers.
Khan’s conviction is making waves on both mainstream and social media. The hashtag #BlackBuckPoachingCase is the top trend on Twitter India while #Salman Khan is also trending. Many of the tweets addressed the fact that the case has gone on for years.