BREAKING NEWS: Relief For Caged ‘Tiger’

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Jodhpur: Bollywood actor Salman Khan has been granted bail in the blackbuck poaching case, India media reported on Saturday.

Salman was ordered to pay a bond of INR50,000 and was granted bail after spending the last two nights at the Jodhpur central jail.

Salman applied for bail after a Jodhpur court on Thursday ruled him guilty under wildlife protection laws and ordered a five-year jail term.

India’s most recognisable and bankable actor was found guilty of hunting two black bucks while working on the film Hum Saath Saath Hain in 1998.

The 52-year-old action star has denied killing the black bucks. His conviction shocked fans and the Bollywood elite.

Hundreds flocked to his home in Mumbai to show solidarity with the star who moved from his luxury apartment to sleeping on the floor of a cell in the Jodhpur Central Jail.

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

Film industry analysts say Salman has nearly $90 million riding on him with at least three big projects in the pipeline.

The case, which has dogged Salman for 20 years, has seen him held in custody three times before.

In 1998, Salman spent a week in prison after being accused of using unlicensed arms to shoot the black bucks.

Salman was also found guilty of killing gazelles on the same trip and served very brief stints in jail in 2006 and 2007, but was later acquitted on appeal.

The actor affectionately called ‘bhai’, or ‘brother’ in Hindi, enjoys a cult-like status with the majority of his devotees young men who envy Salman´s glamorous lifestyle.

The latest verdict has triggered a wave of sympathy for the “bad boy” of Hindi cinema whose life has been dogged by controversies.

Salman, who has had a string of glamorous relationships but never married, was cleared in 2015 of killing a homeless man in a hit-and-run accident. That decision is now being challenged in the Supreme Court.

He was also accused of assaulting a former Miss World and provoked a firestorm in 2016 by saying his workout schedule for a film left him feeling “like a raped woman”.

“Tough times don´t last, tough people do, waiting for tiger to be back,” tweeted actor Maniesh Paul, referring to Salman´s most recent blockbuster Tiger Zinda Hai which has earned more than $85 million worldwide.

Other Bollywood figures have also rallied around the actor, voicing support and decrying the harsh sentence.

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