Salman Rushdie attack: Suspect charged with attempted murder

Hadi Matar, 24, is accused of attacking the author at event in New York state and is being held without bond.

A man suspected of being responsible for the attack against author Salman Rushdie at an event in New York state has been charged with attempted murder and is being held without bond, the Chautauqua County District Attorney’s Office has said.

Jason Schmid, the county’s district attorney, said in a statement on that Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old man from Fairview, New Jersey, was brought before a court late on Friday on charges of attempted murder in the second degree and assault in the second degree.

Matar entered a not-guilty plea during a court appearance on Saturday. Matar appeared in court wearing a black and white jumpsuit and a white face mask. His hands were cuffed in front of him.

State and federal law enforcement agencies were working to understand the planning and preparation that preceded the attack and determine whether additional charges should be filed, Schmidt said.

Matar was born in the United States to Lebanese parents who emigrated from Yaroun, a border village in southern Lebanon, the mayor of the village, Ali Tehfe, told The Associated Press news agency.

Rushdie was stabbed in the neck and torso on stage at a lecture on Friday. After hours of surgery, his agent, Andrew Wylie, said he had suffered a damaged liver, severed nerves in an arm and an eye, and was on a ventilator and unable to speak. He was also likely to lose an injured eye, Wylie said.

The Indian-born bestselling author has lived with a bounty on his head since 1989, when Iran urged Muslims to kill him over his novel “The Satanic Verses”.

NBC New York reported that a preliminary law enforcement review of Matar’s social media accounts showed he was sympathetic to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

An official from Iran-backed Lebanese armed group Hezbollah said on Saturday that the group had no additional information on the stabbing attack against novelist Salman Rushdie.

Several Iranian newspapers heaped praise on the person who attacked Rushdie, but Tehran did not issue an official reaction.

Police on Friday said they had not yet established a motive for the attack.

The 75-year-old novelist was being introduced to give a talk to an audience of hundreds on artistic freedom when the attacker rushed to the stage and lunged at him.

Michael Hill, the president of the Chautauqua Institution and the host of the event, said Matar had obtained a pass to enter the premises like other visitors. According to NBC New York, he was carrying a fake licence on him at the time of the arrest.

Event moderator Henry Reese, 73, was also attacked. Reese suffered a facial injury and was treated and released from a hospital, police said.

Authors, activists and government officials condemned the attack and cited Rushdie’s courage for his longtime advocacy of free speech despite the risks to his own safety.

Rushdie is known for his surreal and satirical prose style, beginning with his Booker Prize-winning novel from 1981, Midnight’s Children, in which he sharply criticised India’s then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The Satanic Verses drew death threats after it was published in 1988, with many Muslims regarding as blasphemy a dream sequence based on the life of the Prophet Muhammad, among other objections.

Rushdie’s book had already been banned and burned in India, Pakistan and elsewhere before Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a 1989 decree calling for Rushdie’s death.