Rushdie attacker pleads not guilty to attempted murder, assault

Hadi Matar is accused of stabbing the author during an event in New York



AP
AP

By Reuters

Published: Thu 18 Aug 2022, 9:41 PM

A man accused of stabbing novelist Salman Rushdie last week in western New York pleaded not guilty to second-degree attempted murder and assault charges on Thursday during an arraignment hearing.

Hadi Matar, 24, is accused of wounding Rushdie, 75, on Friday just before the "The Satanic Verses" author was to deliver a lecture on stage at an educational retreat near Lake Erie. Rushdie was hospitalized with serious injuries in what writers and politicians around the world decried as an attack on the freedom of expression.

Matar was arraigned in Chautauqua County district court on an indictment returned earlier in the day by a grand jury that 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 wore a gray-striped jumpsuit, a white Covid-19 face mask and his hands were shackled.

His next court appearance was scheduled for Sept. 22.

The attack came 33 years after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Iran's supreme leader, issued a fatwa against the author.

Rushdie, who was born in India to a Muslim Kashmiri family, has lived with a bounty on his head, and spent nine years in hiding under British police protection.

In an interview published by the New York Post on Wednesday, Matar said he respected Khomeini but would not say if he was inspired by the fatwa. He said he had "read a couple of pages" of "The Satanic Verses" and watched YouTube videos of the author.

"I don't like him very much," Matar said of Rushdie, as reported in the Post.

Iran's foreign ministry on Monday said that Tehran should not be accused of being involved in the attack. Matar is believed to have acted alone, police have said.

Matar was born in California to a family from Lebanon.

Prosecutors say he travelled to Chautauqua Institution, a retreat about 19 km from Lake Erie, where he bought a pass to Rushdie's lecture.

Witnesses said there were no obvious security checks at the lecture venue and that Matar did not speak as he attacked the author. He was arrested at the scene by a New York State Police trooper after being wrestled to the ground by audience members.

Rushdie sustained severe injuries in the attack, including nerve damage in his arm, wounds to his liver, and the likely loss of an eye, his agent said.


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