The suspect in an attack on author Salman Rushdie has been charged with attempted murder and attempted assault and is being held without bond, authorities in the western New York community where the attack occurred said on August 13.
Hadi Matar, 24, was arraigned late on August 12 on charges of attempted murder in the second degree and assault in the second degree, New York state police said in a statement.
An attorney for Matar entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf.
Jason Schmidt, the district attorney in Chautauqua County, said state and federal law enforcement agencies were working on the investigation.
Matar, a resident of New Jersey, was taken into custody at the scene. Investigators are working to understand the planning and preparation that preceded the attack and determine whether additional charges should be filed, Schmidt said.
Rushdie remained hospitalized on a ventilator with a damaged liver and nerve damage, his agent, Andrew Wylie, said. Wylie added that he was likely to lose an eye.
Rushdie, who spent years in hiding after his novel The Satanic Verses drew death threats from Iran’s leader in the 1980s, was attacked at the Chautauqua Institution, a spiritual retreat center in a rural corner of southwest New York State where he was scheduled to speak.
The center is known for its summertime lecture series, where Rushdie has spoken before.
The suspect stormed the stage as Rushdie was being introduced and attacked him and moderator Henry Reese, New York State Police said in a statement.
Eyewitnesses said the attack lasted for nearly 20 seconds, with Hatar allegedly continuing to punch and stab Rushdie even as onlookers rushed to restrain him. Reese suffered a minor head injury.
There was no official reaction to the attack in Iran, but several hard-line newspapers praised the attacker.
“A thousand bravos…to the brave and dutiful person who attacked the apostate and evil Salman Rushdie in New York,”
wrote Kayhan newspaper, whose editor in chief was appointed by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “The hand of the man who tore the neck of God’s enemy must be kissed.”
The Satanic Verses was banned in Iran because many Muslims consider it to be blasphemous. A year after it was published in 1988, Iran’s leader at the time, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death.
Iran’s government has distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment has lingered. In 2012, a semiofficial Iranian religious foundation raised the bounty for Rushdie from $2.8 million to $3.3 million.
Rushdie, who was forced into hiding for many years because of the fatwa, dismissed that threat at the time, saying there was no evidence of people being interested in the reward.
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 publisher was shot three times and survived.
Khamenei has never issued a fatwa of his own withdrawing the edict, though Iran in recent years hasn’t focused on the writer.
Rushdie was at the Chautauqua Institution to take part in a discussion about the United States serving as asylum for writers and artists in exile and “as a home for freedom of creative expression,” according to the institution’s website.
U.S. President Joe Biden condemned the “vicious attack” and praised Rushdie for his “refusal to be intimidated or silenced.”
In a statement on August 13, Biden said that he and his wife, first lady Jill Biden, “together with all Americans and people around the world, are praying for his health and recovery.”
He added that Rushdie “stands for essential, universal ideals. Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the attack was a strike on the freedom of expression.
“No one should be threatened or harmed on the basis of what they have written. I’m wishing him a speedy recovery,” Trudeau said in a tweet.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also condemned the attack.
“What a despicable act,” Scholz said on Twitter, adding that he wished the author strength for his recovery.
“The world needs people like you who are not intimidated by hate and fearlessly stand up for freedom of expression,” he said.
Born in Mumbai, India, Rushdie holds British and U.S. citizenship and has lived in New York since 2000, according to Politico.
With reporting by AP and Reuters
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