NEW DELHI - A court on Saturday granted bail to Bollywood superstar Salman Khan while he appeals his conviction on charges of poaching rare deer in a wildlife preserve two decades ago, a welcome development for thousands of fans who greeted their hero with songs and firecrackers.
Khan was convicted on Thursday and sentenced to five years in prison and was immediately sent to jail. On Saturday, Judge Ravindra Kumar Joshi ordered him to sign a surety bond of 50,000 rupees ($770) before he was set free from the jail in Jodhpur, a town in western India.
Hundreds of Khan"s overjoyed fans danced outside the courtroom and chanted "We love you, Salman". His sisters, Alvira and Arpita, were present during the hearing.
Carrying big garlanded posters of Khan, the fans set off firecrackers and sang songs from his Bollywood movies as some of them chased his car heading to the airport.
The scenes were more intense outside his Mumbai residence in India"s entertainment capital. Thousands of fans waited for hours and lit up the sky with fireworks as Khan reached his home.
Flanked by his father and other relatives, he came to the balcony of his apartment with folded hands and waved, thanking them for their support. He retreated after signaling his fans to go home.
Khan insists he did not shoot the two blackbuck deer and alleges he is being framed.
His lawyers claim the black bucks died of natural causes such as overeating, insisting there was no evidence they 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.
Soli Sorabjee, a legal expert, said it was normal for bail to be granted in such a case, and didn"t see Khan getting any special treatment from the court. "This has nothing to do with Khan"s personality as an actor," he said.
The 52-year-old Khan has starred in more than 90 Hindi-language films. But he is also a controversial figure and has had a number of run-ins with the law, including a fatal car accident.
Khan spent a total of 18 days in prison in 1998, 2006 and 2007 in the poaching cases, but was freed on bail. He had been sentenced to prison terms of between one and five years in related cases before being acquitted by appeals courts for lack of evidence.
Ap - Afp