Indian film star to go free after deal with Bandit King

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The Independent Online

The Southern Indian state of Karnataka yesterday dropped all charges against 121 allies of a jungle bandit, fulfilling a key demand for the release of a local film star he kidnapped four weeks ago.

The Southern Indian state of Karnataka yesterday dropped all charges against 121 allies of a jungle bandit, fulfilling a key demand for the release of a local film star he kidnapped four weeks ago.

Veerappan seized the Kannada-language actor Rajkumar and three other people on 30 July from a remote farm, demanding the release of his allies and compensation for victims of alleged police atrocities.

"The government has passed orders to drop all charges against 51 prisoners who are now in jail and 70 others who are out on bail," the chief minister, S M Krishna, told a news conference in the state capital, Bangalore.

He said the prisoners would be freed once their lawyers organised financial guarantees of between 10,000 and 20,000 rupees (£140-£280) demanded by a court in Mysore, where they are imprisoned.

The Press Trust of India said some of Karnataka's leading film stars were trying to raise the money to release the prisoners, who are mostly villagers accused of helping Veerappan in his criminal activities.

Mr Krishna said that the government's emissary would be returning to the jungle late last night to convey to Veerappan the government's decision to fulfil his demands.

Veerappan, known as the Bandit King, has roamed the jungles of southern India for decades. He is accused of 120 murders, the slaughter of 2,000 elephants and smuggling ivory and sandalwood worth millions of dollars. His kidnapping of 72-year-old Rajkumar sparked riots in Karnataka, where the veteran of 210 films is a cult figure.

Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, where Rajkumar was kidnapped, last week set up a compensation fund of 50 million rupees each to pay those identified by a judicial commission as victims of police atrocities. (Reuters)

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