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Salman Rushdie Assault Suspect Pleads Not Guilty

Salman Rushdie Assault Suspect Pleads Not Guilty

  • Rushdie was hospitalized with serious injuries, which writers and politicians around the world condemned as an attack on free expression.
  • Judge orders Matar not to contact Rushdie and prohibits the parties from discussing the case in the media.
  • The multimillion-dollar reward for information leading to Rushdie’s death has never been lifted.

 

The man accused of stabbing novelist Salman Rushdie in western New York last week pleaded not guilty to second-degree attempted murder and assault charges and was held without bail On Thursday.

Hadi Matar, 24, is accused of stabbing Rushdie, 75, just before the author of “The Satanic Verses” was to deliver a lecture on stage at an educational retreat near Lake Erie on Friday. Rushdie was hospitalized with serious injuries, which writers and politicians around the world condemned as an attack on free expression.

Matar was arraigned at the Chautauqua County Courthouse on an indictment returned by a grand jury earlier in the day, which charged him with one count of second-degree attempted murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, and one count of second-degree assault.

He’s been in jail since his arrest, wearing a gray-striped jumpsuit, a white COVID-19 face mask, and his hands were cuffed.

Judge David Foley ordered Matar not to contact Rushdie and granted his defense lawyer’s request for a temporary gag order prohibiting the parties from discussing the case in the media. He stated that he would consider the defense’s request for Matar’s release on bail.

Matar will appear in court again next month.

The attack came 33 years after Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, calling on Muslims to assassinate Rushdie a few months after “The Satanic Verses” was published. Some Muslims considered passages about Prophet Muhammad to be blasphemous.

Rushdie, who was born in India to a Muslim Kashmiri family, has spent nine years in hiding under the protection of British police.

Iran’s pro-reform government of President Mohammad Khatami distanced itself from the fatwa in 1998, declaring that the threat against Rushdie had passed.

However, the multimillion-dollar reward has since grown, and the fatwa has never been lifted: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Khomeini’s successor, was suspended from Twitter in 2019 for saying the fatwa against Rushdie was “irrevocable.”

Matar told the New York Post on Wednesday that he respected Khomeini but would not say whether the fatwa inspired him. He claimed to have “read a couple of pages” of “The Satanic Verses” and to have watched author YouTube videos.

“I don’t like him very much,” Matar said of Rushdie, as reported in the Post. “He’s someone who attacked Islam, he attacked their beliefs, the belief systems.”

Iran’s foreign ministry stated on Monday that Tehran should not be blamed for the attack. According to police, Matar is believed to have acted alone.

Matar is a Shi’ite Muslim who was born in California to a Lebanese family.

Prosecutors claim he went to Chautauqua Institution, a retreat about 12 miles (19 km) from Lake Erie, and purchased a ticket to Rushdie’s lecture.

According to witnesses, there were no obvious security checks at the venue, and Matar did not speak while attacking the author. After being wrestled to the ground by audience members, he was arrested at the scene by a New York State Police trooper.

Rushdie suffered severe injuries in the attack, including nerve damage in his arm, liver wounds, and the possible loss of an eye, according to his agent. However, his condition has improved since the weekend, and he has been taken off a ventilator.

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