JODHPUR (AFP) – Bollywood superstar Salman Khan was granted bail on Saturday, allowing him to contest a five-year prison sentence for killing endangered wildlife two decades ago.
Khan, one of the world’s highest-paid actors, spent two nights in jail after a court on Thursday found him guilty of killing rare antelopes known as black bucks on a hunting trip while shooting a movie in 1998.
Mahesh Bora, a lawyer for Khan, told reporters a judge had signed off his bail on a bond of 50,000 rupees ($770).
Media reports said the 52-year-old action movie star should be able to leave Jodhpur Central Jail in Rajasthan state before the end of the day.
Prosecution lawyer Mahipal Bishnoi told reporters that Khan would now have to appear in court on May 7.
The actor — affectionately called “bhai”, or “brother” in Hindi — enjoys a cult-like status and had hoards of fans waiting outside the court on Saturday who burst into celebrations after the hearing, beating drums and chanting his name.
But animal rights group PETA said it was disappointed with Khan’s bail.
“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.
The brawny actor, called Prisoner 106 in jail, had reportedly been skipping his no-frills prison meals but not his workout sessions, with the Times of India newspaper reporting that he spent three hours exercising Friday.
Khan has accused Rajasthan’s forest department of trying to frame him.
His lawyers claim the black bucks died of natural causes such as overeating, claiming there was no evidence the animals were shot.
Four other Bollywood stars — Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam Kothari — who were also accused in the case were acquitted due to lack of evidence.