Salman Rushdie’s Attacker Pleads Not Guilty

Salman Rushdie's Attacker Pleads Not Guilty To Second-Degree Attempted Murder And Assault Charges
Salman Rushdie's Attacker Pleads Not Guilty To Second-Degree Attempted Murder And Assault Charges(Charles Fox via AP)

Salman Rushdie’s attacker in western New York has pleaded not guilty Saturday to attempted murder in the second degree and other charges, his attorney says.

Salman Rushdie’s attacker Hadi Matar, 24, is accused of stabbing Rushdie whose controversial work has triggered death threats at a speaking engagement on Friday, authorities said.

Salman Rushdie’s attacker Matar, a New Jersey resident, also was charged with assault in the second degree, with intent to cause physical injury with a deadly weapon. Matar pleaded not guilty, according to Nathaniel Barone, his public defender. The attorney said Matar has been “very cooperative” and communicating openly, but he did not discuss the content of those conversations.

He was refused bail and remanded to the Chautauqua County Jail. Matar’s next court appearance is Friday.

Rushdie, 75, was stabbed on stage at the Chautauqua Institution before he was slated to give a lecture, New York state police said Friday. He was airlifted to a hospital in northwestern Pennsylvania and underwent surgery, a Pennsylvania police official said. The hospital said it had no update to provide on his condition Saturday.

Rushdie’s injuries included three stab wounds to the right side of the front of his neck, four stab wounds to his stomach, a puncture wound to his right eye, a puncture wound to his chest, and a laceration on his right thigh, according to Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt, who provided details of the injuries during Matar’s arraignment.

Rushdie may lose his right eye, the county prosecutor added.

On Friday, Rushdie was put on a ventilator and was unable to speak, his agent, Andrew Wylie, told The New York Times. “The nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged,” Wylie said. “The news is not good.”

Author Salman Rushdie was stabbed in the neck while onstage on Friday in Chautauqua, New York, New York police have confirmed. The attacker is in police custody.

Author Salman Rushdie was flown by helicopter to a local hospital, according to the police statement, which also said the person who interviewing Rushdie at the Chautauqua Institution in Western New York suffered a minor head injury.

An endocrinologist who was in the audience and offered assistance told the New York Times that Rushdie had multiple stab wounds and there was a pool of blood under his body. She said people were saying “he has a pulse, he has a pulse.”

At about 11 a.m. ET, the Associated Press said its reporter witnessed a man storm the stage and begin punching or stabbing 75-year-old Rushdie before the attacker was restrained.

Rushdie’s condition was uncertain as people attempt to gather more information. Images on AP show him surrounded by others who rushed onstage immediately after he was attacked. AP said Rushdie quickly was surrounded by a small group of people who held up his legs, presumably to send more blood to his chest.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said: “I want to commend the state police. It was a state police officer who stood up and protected him.”

Rushdie has both British and American citizenship and the Chautauqua Institution lecture was supposed to be the first in a seven-part series hosted by the non-profit organization.

Rushdie’s controversial book The Satanic Verses has been banned in Iran since 1988, as many Muslims consider it to be blasphemous, and since the late 1980s there has been a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death that still exists today, ordered by Ayatollah Khomeini. In 1989, a failed assassination attempt on him in London ended with a bomb exploding prematurely.

Iran’s bounty against Rushdie was raised to $3.3M in 2012, though he previously has dismissed concerns.

The India-born Booker Prize-winning novelist has written a number of books both before and after The Satanic Verses, and he co-wrote the screenplay for the film version of Midnight’s Children with Deepa Mehta, with a Netflix TV series of the same project also in the works. Rushdie also appeared as himself in the likes of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Bridget Jones’s Diary. His other works include 1975’s Grimus, 1983’s hame and 1999’s The Ground Beneath Her Feet. 

Author Salman Rushdie was made an MBE a few weeks ago in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

A statement from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression said the attack is a “horrible reminder that when people stop settling their disagreements with words, they too often try to do so with weapons.”

“Mr. Rushdie has long understood free speech’s necessity. He is among its strongest advocates,” it added.

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