The man accused of the stabbing attack on Salman Rushdie pleaded not guilty on Saturday to attempted murder and assault in what a prosecutor called a “preplanned” crime, while the famous author of “ The Satanic Verses” remained hospitalized with serious injuries.
A lawyer for Hadi Matar argued on his behalf at an arraignment in western New York. The suspect appeared in court wearing a black and white jumpsuit and white face mask with his hands cuffed in front of him.
The man accused of carrying out a stabbing attack on ‘Satanic Verses’ author Salman Rushdie has pleaded not guilty in a New York court to attempted murder and assault. A judge ordered him held without bond after District Attorney Jason Schmidt told him that Mr. Matar had taken steps to deliberately put himself in a position to harm Mr. Rushdie, obtaining an early pass for the event where the author was speaking and arriving a day early carrying a fake ID.
“This was a targeted, unprovoked, pre-planned attack on Mr. Rushdie,” Mr. Schmidt said.
Court-appointed lawyer Nathaniel Barone complained that authorities took too long to bring Mr Matar before a judge while leaving him “hanging on a bench in the state police barracks”.
“He has this constitutional right to the presumption of innocence,” Mr Barone added.
Mr Matar is accused of attacking Rushdie on Friday as the perpetrator was featured at a conference at the Chautauqua Institute, a non-profit education and retreat center.
Mr Rushdie suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and eye, and was on a ventilator and unable to speak, his agent Andrew Wylie said on Friday evening. Mr. Rushdie was in danger of losing the injured eye.
The attack prompted shock and outrage from much of the world, as well as tributes and praise for the award-winning author who for more than 30 years faced death threats for “The satanic verses”.
Authors, activists and government officials have cited Mr. Rushdie’s courage for his longstanding advocacy of free speech despite risks to his own safety. Writer and long-time friend Ian McEwan called Mr Rushdie “an inspirational advocate for persecuted writers and journalists around the world”, and actor-author Kal Penn cited him as a role model “for an entire generation artists, especially for many of us around the world”. South Asian diaspora towards whom he showed incredible warmth.
President Joe Biden said in a statement on Saturday that he and first lady Jill Biden were “shocked and saddened” by the attack.
“Salman Rushdie – with his insight into humanity, with his unrivaled sense of history, with his refusal to be bullied or silenced – represents essential and universal ideals,” the statement read. “Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear. These are the building blocks of any free and open society.
Mr Rushdie, originally from India who has since lived in Britain and the US, is known for his surreal and satirical style of prose, starting with his 1981 Booker Prize-winning novel ‘Midnight’s Children’. , in which he sharply criticized India at the time. prime minister, Indira Gandhi.
“The Satanic Verses” drew death threats after it was published in 1988, with many Muslims considering a dream sequence based on the life of the Prophet Muhammad to be blasphemy, among other objections. Mr. Rushdie’s book had already been banned and burned in India, Pakistan and elsewhere before Iranian Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Mr. Rushdie’s death in 1989.
Ayatollah Khomeini died the same year, but the fatwa remains in effect. Iran’s current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has never issued a fatwa to revoke the edict, although Iran in recent years has not focused on the writer.
Investigators were scrambling to determine if the attacker, who was born a decade after ‘Satanic Verses’ was published, acted alone.
District Attorney Schmidt hinted at the fatwa as a potential ground for opposing bail.
“Even if this court were to set bail at $1 million, we run the risk that bail could be met,” Schmidt said.
“His resources don’t matter to me. We understand that the program that was executed yesterday is something that has been embraced and sanctioned by larger groups and organizations far beyond the jurisdictional boundaries of Chautauqua County,” the prosecutor said.
Authorities said Mr. Matar is from Fairview, New Jersey. He was born in the United States to Lebanese parents who emigrated from Yaroun in southern Lebanon, village mayor Ali Tehfe told The Associated Press.
Flags of the Iran-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah and portraits of leader Hassan Nasrallah, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his late predecessor Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and slain Iranian general Qassem Soleimani are visible throughout the village, which also has a small Christian population. .
Journalists visiting the village on Saturday were asked to leave. Hezbollah spokesmen did not respond to inquiries about Mr. Matar and the attack.
Iran’s theocratic government and its state media attributed no motive to the attack. In Tehran, some Iranians interviewed by the AP welcomed the attack on a perpetrator who they said tarnished the Islamic faith, while others feared it could further isolate their country.
An AP reporter saw the assailant stab or punch Rushdie about 10 or 15 times. Dr Martin Haskell, a doctor who was among those rushing to help, described Mr Rushdie’s injuries as “serious but recoverable”.
Event moderator Henry Reese suffered a facial injury and was treated and released from hospital, police said. He and Mr. Rushdie had planned to discuss the United States as a haven for exiled writers and other artists.
A state trooper and a county sheriff’s deputy were assigned to conference Mr. Rushdie, and state police said the trooper made the arrest. But afterwards some longtime visitors to the center wondered why security was not tightened given the threats against Mr Rushdie and a bounty of more than $3million on his head.
The stabbing reverberated from the sleepy town of Chautauqua to the United Nations, which issued a statement expressing horror at Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and stressing that freedom of expression and opinion must not be fought with violence.
Iran’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Following the publication of ‘The Satanic Verses’, often violent protests erupted across the Muslim world against Mr. Rushdie, who was born into a Muslim family and has long identified as a non-believer, once calling himself ‘ a pure and hard atheist”.
At least 45 people were killed in riots over the book, including 12 people in Mr Rushdie’s hometown of Mumbai. 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.
Death threats and the bounty drove Mr Rushdie into hiding under a UK government protection scheme, which included a 24-hour armed guard. Mr Rushdie emerged after nine years of solitary confinement and cautiously resumed more public appearances, maintaining his outspoken criticism of religious extremism as a whole.
In 2012, Mr. Rushdie published a memoir on the fatwa titled “Joseph Anton,” the pseudonym Mr. Rushdie used while in hiding. He told a conference in New York that year that terrorism was truly the art of fear.
“The only way to defeat it is to decide not to be afraid,” he said.
The Chautauqua Institution, about 55 miles southwest of Buffalo in a rural corner of New York, has served for more than a century as a place of reflection and spiritual guidance. Visitors don’t go through metal detectors or undergo bag checks, and most people leave the doors of their century-old cabins unlocked at night.
The center is known for its summer lecture series, which Mr. Rushdie has previously spoken about.
At a Friday evening vigil, a few hundred residents and visitors gathered for prayer, music and a long moment of silence.
“Hate cannot win,” one man shouted.
This story was reported by the Associated Press. Italy reported from New York. Associated Press reporter Kareem Chehayeb contributed reporting from Beirut.