Indian court gives Dutt 4 more weeks before prison

NEW DELHI (AP) — Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt was granted more time to work before going to prison for a 1993 weapons conviction linked to a deadly terror attack, though he likely won’t be able to finish his four pending films.

The Supreme Court’s order Wednesday gives him four more weeks beyond the original deadline, which was Thursday. Dutt had appealed to the court that he needed six months to complete his pending film commitments, which film industry experts have said are worth at least $20 million.

Last month the top court sentenced Dutt to five years in prison for illegal possession of weapons supplied by Muslim mafia bosses linked to the terror attack that killed 257 people in Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment hub.

The 53-year-old actor originally had been sentenced to serve six years in prison on the charge of possessing an automatic rifle and a pistol that were supplied to him by men subsequently convicted in the bombings.

Dutt served 18 months in jail before he was released on bail in 2007 pending an appeal. The Supreme Court reduced his prison sentence to five years.

The actor’s case is part of a sprawling Mumbai bombings trial that has lasted 18 years. Dutt maintains he knew nothing about the bombing plot and that he asked for the guns to protect his family — his mother was Muslim and his father Hindu — after receiving threats during sectarian riots in Mumbai.

The 1993 bombings were seen at the time as the world’s worst terrorist attack, with 13 bombs exploding over a two-hour period across Mumbai. Powerful explosives were packed into cars and scooters parked near India’s main Bombay Stock Exchange and other sites in the city. In addition to the 257 dead, more than 720 people were injured in the attack.

The bombings were believed to have been acts of revenge for the demolition of a 16th century mosque by Hindu nationalists in northern India in 1992. After the demolition, religious riots erupted, leaving more than 800 people dead, most of them Muslims.

Despite the long-drawn case and his stint in jail, Dutt’s Bollywood career flourished over the past two decades. He gained enormous popularity for a series of Hindi films in which he played a reformed thug who follows the teachings of nonviolence advocate and Indian independence hero Mohandas Gandhi.

In addition to the four projects underway, two other movies that Dutt recently completed filming were being readied for release.

Film industry insiders said the time would not be enough for Dutt to complete all his projects.

“One month is too short for the volume of work that Sanjay has on his plate. We are hoping to wrap up as much as we can,” said Rensil D’Silva, producer of one of Dutt’s films.

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