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Bollywood actor Salman Khan acquitted in weapons case

Reuters

MUMBAI (Reuters) - An Indian court on Wednesday acquitted Bollywood movie star Salman Khan of possessing an unlicensed weapon nearly two decades ago, ending a case that threatened to derail the career of one of the country's biggest actors.

Khan, 51, had been charged with possessing and using an unlicensed weapon to kill an endangered gazellein 1998 on a hunting trip in the desert state of Rajasthan, where he was filming the movie "Hum Saath Saath Hain" (We Stand United).

The actor, who built his career on portrayals of bad boys with a heart of gold, was previously cleared of the poaching charge.

Khan, who was present in court in the city of Jodhpur for the verdict, was given the "benefit of the doubt and acquitted of all charges", his lawyer, Hastimal Saraswat, told reporters.

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The actor could have faced up to seven years in jail if found guilty of possessing an unlicensed gun.

Minutes after the verdict, Khan, accompanied by a gaggle of lawyers and his sister, walked out of court without stopping to comment on the verdict. Later he tweeted: "Thank you for all the support and good wishes."

This was not Khan's first brush with the law. In 2015, the Bombay High Court overturned his conviction in a hit-and-run case in which he was accused of running over a homeless man.

The actor is also accused of killing an endangered antelope in October 1998. That case is being heard by a separate court.

Khan has churned out a series of blockbuster hits in the last few years. His two releases in 2017 are both big ticket films expected to make billions of rupees at the box office.

(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Tony Tharakan and Randy Fabi)