Salman Rushdie stabs suspect accused of attempted murder as perpetrator remains in hospital with ‘serious’ injuries

The accused man performing a stab attack against “Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie has entered a plea of ​​not guilty in a New York court to charges of attempted murder and assault.

A lawyer for Hadi Matar, 24, entered the statement on his behalf during an arraignment hearing. Matar appeared in court wearing a black and white jumpsuit and a white mask. His hands were cuffed in front of him.

Matar, of Fairview, New Jersey, was charged with attempted second-degree murder and second-degree assault, Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt said in a statement Saturday. Matar was arraigned Friday night and jailed without bail, he said.

Matar is accused of attacking Rushdie on Friday when the author was speaking at a lecture at the Chautauqua Institute.

Rushdie suffered serious injuries in the attack and remains hospitalized. Rushdie’s agent said on Friday night that the author is currently on a ventilator and is unable to speak. He said Rushdie will likely lose an eye, adding that the nerves in his arm were “severed” and his liver was “stabbed and damaged”.

CORRECTION Salman Rushdie Assault

This video still image shows Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, NJ, left, being escorted from the stage as people tend to author Salman Rushdie, center right, at the Chautauqua Institution , in Chautauqua, NY, Friday, August 12. , 2022.

/ AP

“We are working closely with state police, our local police agencies and federal law enforcement partners to fully develop the evidence,” Schmidt said Saturday. “We have been in contact with our counterparts in the state of New Jersey where the attacker is from to share information and help them help us better understand the planning and preparation that preceded the attack so that we and the various agencies involved we can determine what, if any, additional charges should apply.”

Matar was born in the United States to Lebanese parents who immigrated from Yaroun, a border town in southern Lebanon, Mayor Ali Tehfe told The Associated Press.

Its birth came a decade after the publication of “The Satanic Verses,” Rushdie’s 1988 novel that prompted death threats against Iran’s leader decades ago.

The motive for the attack was unclear, state police Maj. Eugene Staniszewski said.

An official from the Iranian-backed Lebanese armed group Hezbollah told Reuters on Saturday that the group “knew nothing” about the suspect and declined comment.

Matar, like other visitors, had obtained a pass to enter the Chautauqua institution’s 750-acre grounds, said Michael Hill, the institution’s president.

The suspect’s attorney, Public Defender Nathaniel Barone, said he was still gathering information and declined to comment. Matar’s house was blocked by the authorities.

Video captured by WNY News Now de Matar who was taken to the Chautauqua County Jail Friday night from the New York State Police barracks in Jamestown.

“The Satanic Verses” was seen as blasphemy by many Muslims, who saw the character as an insult to the Prophet Muhammad, among other objections. The book was banned in Iran, where the late leader Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a 1989 fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death.

Iran’s theocratic government and its state media gave no justification for Friday’s assault. In Tehran, some Iranians interviewed by the AP on Saturday praised the attack on a perpetrator they believe tarnished the Islamic faith, while others worried it would further isolate their country.

An AP reporter witnessed the attacker confront Rushdie on stage and stab or punch him 10 to 15 times as the author introduced himself. Dr Martin Haskell, a doctor who rushed to help, described Rushdie’s injuries as “serious but recoverable”.

Event moderator Henry Reese, 73, co-founder of an organization that offers residencies to writers facing persecution, was also attacked. Reese suffered a facial injury and was treated and released from a hospital, police said. He and Rushdie had planned to talk about the United States as a haven for writers and other artists in exile.

A state trooper and a county sheriff’s deputy were assigned to Rushdie’s conference, and state police said the trooper made the arrest. But after the attack, some visitors to the center questioned why there wasn’t tighter security for the event, given decades of threats against Rushdie and a bounty on his head that offered more than $3 million to anyone who killed him.

Rabbi Charles Savenor was among the approximately 2,500 people in the audience for Rushdie’s appearance.

The attacker ran onto the platform “and started hitting Mr Rushdie. At first you were like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then it was very clear within seconds that he was being hit,” Savenor said. He said the attack lasted about 20 seconds.

A dramatic video of the aftermath of the attack was posted on social media.

New video shows the chaos moments after notable author Salman Rushdie was stabbed. Police units were on the scene within seconds.

Video via MentNews

— Moshe Schwartz (@YWNReporter) August 12, 2022

Another bystander, Kathleen James, said the attacker was dressed in black, wearing a black mask.

“We thought maybe it was part of a stunt to show that there’s still a lot of controversy surrounding this author. But within seconds it became clear” that it wasn’t, he said.

Amid gasps, the spectators left the outdoor amphitheater.

The stabbing reverberated from the quiet town of Chautauqua to the United Nations, which issued a statement expressing the horror of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, stressing that freedom of expression and opinion it should not be met with violence.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday’s attack, which ran an evening news bulletin on Iranian state television.

In a statement Saturday, President Biden said he and the first lady were “shocked and saddened” to learn of the attack and said that “along with all Americans and people around the world, we are praying for the his health and recovery.”

“Salman Rushdie, with his vision of humanity, with his unparalleled sense of history, with his refusal to be intimidated or silenced, represents essential and universal ideals. Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear ” Biden said. partly. “These are the building blocks of any free and open society. And today, we reaffirm our commitment to these deeply American values ​​in solidarity with Rushdie and all those who stand up for free speech.”

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan called the attack “reprehensible”.

“This act of violence is appalling,” Sullivan said in a statement. “We are grateful to the good citizens and first responders for helping Mr. Rushdie so quickly after the attack and to law enforcement for their swift and effective work, which is ongoing.”

“Our thoughts are with Salman and his loved ones following this horrific event,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said. he tweeted after the attack

Rushdie has been a prominent spokesman for free speech and liberal causes, and the literary world recoiled from what Ian McEwan, novelist and friend of Rushdie, described as “an assault on freedom of thought and “expression”.

“Salman has been an inspiring advocate for persecuted writers and journalists around the world,” McEwan said in a statement. “He is a fiery and generous spirit, a man of immense talent and courage and will not be deterred.”

PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said the organization was not aware of any comparable acts of violence against a literary writer in the United States. Rushdie was once chairman of the group, which advocates for writers and freedom of expression.

After the publication of The Satanic Verses, often violent protests broke out across the Muslim world against Rushdie, who was born in India to a Muslim family.

At least 45 people died in riots over the book, including 12 in Rushdie’s hometown of Mumbai. In 1991, a Japanese translator of the book was stabbed to death and an Italian translator survived a knife attack. In 1993, the book’s Norwegian editor was shot three times and survived.

Khomeini died the same year he issued the fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death. Iran’s current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, never issued a fatwa of his own to withdraw the edict, although Iran in recent years has not focused on the writer.

The death threats and reward led Rushdie to go into hiding under a British government protection program, which included a 24-hour armed guard. Rushdie emerged from nine years in seclusion and cautiously resumed more public appearances, keeping his criticism open to religious extremism in general.

In 2012, Rushdie published a memoir, “Joseph Anton,” about the fatwa. The title comes from the pseudonym Rushdie used while in hiding. He said during a talk in New York the same year the memoir came out that terrorism was really the art of fear.

“The only way to beat it is by choosing not to be afraid,” he said.

Anti-Rushdie sentiment has endured long after Khomeini’s decree. The Censorship Index, an organization that promotes free expression, said money was raised to increase the reward for his murder as recently as 2016.

An AP reporter who went to the Tehran office of the 15 Khordad Foundation, which invested millions to reward Rushdie, found it closed late Friday night on the Iranian weekend. No one answered calls to their listed phone number.

Rushdie rose to prominence with his Booker Prize-winning 1981 novel “Midnight’s Children,” but his name became known around the world after “The Satanic Verses.”

Widely regarded as one of Britain’s greatest living writers, Rushdie was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2008 and earlier this year was made a Fellow of the Companions of Honour, a royal award for people who have made a great contribution to the arts. , science or public life.

Organizers of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which opens in Scotland on Saturday and is one of the world’s biggest literary gatherings, are encouraging invited authors to read a sentence from Rushdie’s work at the start of their Events.

“We are inspired by his courage and thinking of him at this difficult time,” said festival director Nick Barley. “This tragedy is a painful reminder of the fragility of the things we hold dear and a call to action: we will not be intimidated by those who would use violence more than words.”

The Chautauqua Institution, about 55 miles (89 kilometers) southwest of Buffalo in a rural corner of New York, has served for more than a century as a place of reflection and spiritual guidance. Visitors do not pass through metal detectors or undergo baggage checks. Most people leave the doors of their centuries-old houses open at night.

The center is known for its summer lecture series, where Rushdie has spoken before.

At an evening vigil, several hundred residents and visitors gathered for prayer, music and a long moment of silence.

“Hate can’t win,” one man shouted.

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