Indian Bollywood actor Salman Khan arrives at a court to hear the verdict in the long-running wildlife poaching case against him in Jodhpur on April 5, 2018.
Salman Khan was found guilty April 5 of killing endangered Indian wildlife nearly two decades ago, a prosecutor said, a charge that could see the Bollywood superstar jailed for six years. / AFP PHOTO / -        (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Animal poaching gets Bollywood star jail time
00:34 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Khan, one of India’s most recognizable and bankable actors, was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison Thursday for killing two blackbucks while working on a film in the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan in 1998. The blackbuck is a type of antelope found in India that’s considered an endangered species.

Bhawani Singh, a public prosecutor working on the case, told reporters outside the court that Khan can appeal the decision to a higher court. If Khan’s appeal is accepted, he could be granted bail or have his sentence suspended.

Khan, one of India’s most recognizable and bankable actors, was found guilty of killing two blackbucks, a type of antelope found in the country, while working on a film in the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan in the 1998. He was also fined 10,000 Indian rupees ($150).

Prosecutors alleged the 52-year-old shot the two blackbucks while out driving with some of his co-stars.

Khan pleaded not guilty and has long maintained his innocence as the case has languished in legal limbo. Khan’s attorneys said he was carrying an air gun, which cannot be used for hunting an antelope.

The other actors, Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam Kothari, were charged with abetting a crime but were acquitted Thursday.

Desai had said the actor’s conviction Thursday was a surprise, because of the acquittals in the two other cases.

“We are studying the judgment – it just came as a surprise, as the entire investigation, and facts of this case were the same as those for which Salman has been acquitted by Hon’ble (Honorable) High Court of Rajasthan in two cases,” he said.

Khan has long been known as one of Bollywood’s bad boys and has been in trouble with the law before. In 2015 he was found guilty in a deadly hit-and-run accident and received a five-year prison sentence. A higher court later tossed the conviction, saying the evidence presented was not sufficient.

His trial has generated significant media coverage throughout India, with many of the country’s news channels giving his case wall-to-wall coverage.

The son of Indian screenwriter Salim Khan, the actor made his movie debut in 1988, and his career soon took off.

Today he’s considered one of India’s top celebrities – to the point where he’s often mobbed in public – and is still one of Bollywood’s biggest box-office draws despite his brushes with the law.

Khan has more than 32 million followers on Twitter and another 15.3 million on Instagram.

Forbes ranked him 71st in its list of the world’s highest-paid celebrities and the ninth-highest paid actor, estimating he raked in $37 million in 2017. Fellow Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, at No. 8 on the list, is the only Indian actor to have earned more than him last year.