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Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt heads to jail over guns case

Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt surrendered to face three-and-a-half years in jail for illegal possession of weapons, in a case linked to deadly bombings in Mumbai 20 years ago.

Sanjay Dutt, the Bollywood actor, gestures as arrives at the special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (TADA) court to surrender in Mumbai today. AFP Photo
Sanjay Dutt, the Bollywood actor, gestures as arrives at the special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (TADA) court to surrender in Mumbai today. AFP Photo
MUMBAI // Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt surrendered yesterday to serve three-and-a-half years in jail for illegal possession of weapons, in a case linked to deadly bombings in Mumbai 20 years ago.
Accompanied by family and friends, the 53-year-old was greeted by journalists at the gates of his home before travelling in a convoy of cars to a court in south Mumbai, where another large crowd swarmed around his vehicle.
Dutt was initially unable to leave the car because of the media mob that police struggled to control. He eventually entered the court with his sister and wife, and from there he was to be transferred to jail.
Dutt was convicted in 2006 of possessing guns supplied by gangsters who staged the 1993 bomb attacks that killed 257 people, but he was freed on bail after serving 18 months in prison.
In March this year the supreme court upheld Dutt's conviction but cut his jail term from six years to five. He was granted four extra weeks of freedom to work on movies.
The court on Tuesday refused to hear a plea by a film producer who sought more time for Dutt to surrender so he could complete two films still being shot.
Analysts estimate about 2.5 billion rupees (Dh168m) were riding in Bollywood on the muscular star, who is best known for playing a mobster with a heart of gold in the Munnabhai movie series.
On Wednesday the filmmaker and close friend, Mahesh Bhatt, said the actor was "crumbling". But Mr Bhatt, who joined Dutt on his journey to the court, yesterday said: "There was a new resolve in him to face with dignity the sentence and go through it smiling."
On Wednesday Dutt withdrew a plea to give himself up in a different city, which he had made citing threats to his life.
Officials said the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai had received an anonymous death-threat letter targeting the actor.
A Hindu right-wing group protested outside Dutt's home in Mumbai late on Wednesday demanding he receive the death penalty.
Police stood guard at his residence and at the court yesterday.
The actor shot to fame in the 1980s in a string of action movies.
Dutt, whose mother was Muslim and father Hindu, was acquitted in 2007 of more serious charges of conspiracy in the deadly blasts.
The attacks were believed to have been staged by Muslim underworld figures in retaliation for religious riots in which mainly Muslims died, following the razing of an ancient mosque at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh state.
Dutt was found guilty of possession of an automatic rifle and a pistol, which he insisted were only meant to protect his family in the tense atmosphere in Mumbai following the mosque's destruction.
Following the March hearing, Dutt wept as he declared himself "a shattered man", and some leading figures have called for him to be pardoned.