Agent says Salman Rushdie showing improvement, attacker pleads NOT GUILTY to attempted murder

After a brutal stabbing resulted in Salman Rushdie being airlifted to a New York hospital, an update on the author’s condition has been provided while his attacker offered little in court save for a plea of not guilty to a “targeted, unprovoked, pre-planned attack.”

Best known for the book “The Satanic Verses,” 75-year-old Rushdie was participating in a literary festival in Chautauqua, NY Friday when 24-year-old Hadi Matar allegedly attacked the author.  The assault left the victim with three stab wounds on the right side of his neck, four in his stomach, a puncture wound in his right eye, two more in his chest and a laceration to the right thigh, the New York Post reported. Fox News also noted Rushdie’s liver was damaged, nerves were severed in his arm and he was likely to lose his eye.

Despite the extent of the damage, fellow author Aatish Taseer had reportedly tweeted Rushdie was “off the ventilator and talking (and joking)” by Saturday evening. Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, was able to confirm those details.

(Taseer would later delete the tweet, explaining: “Sorry for the deleted tweet. Not my place to give updates. Just felt great to have some good news at last.”)

As previously reported, the initial investigation into the suspect’s background showed that he may have been sympathetic to Shia extremism, the less prevalent global sect of Islam isolated to nations like Iran, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). He was said to have been carrying a fake driver’s license with the name Hassan Mughniyah, a reference to a senior Hezbollah official with ties to the IRGC.

Hezbollah is a Shia terrorist group based in Lebanon.

While Rushdie was recovering, Matar appeared before Judge Marilyn Gerace at the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, NY where, other than terse replies like “yes” and “understood” when asked questions, he plead not guilty to the charges.

Matar was born in the United States to parents who emigrated from the village of Yaroun, Lebanon and was a resident of New Jersey. Fox News reported that the village displays flags of Hezbollah along with portraits of prominent leaders like Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani who was taken out in a drone strike.

At the suspect’s hearing, District Attorney Jason Schmidt stated, “This was a targeted, unprovoked, pre-planned attack on Mr. Rushdie.”

He further went on to explain the fatwa, or religious decree, against Rushdie for his work “The Satanic Verses” which Muslims say is blasphemous. The target on the author’s head was said to be worth $3 million and Schmidt noted, “Even if this court were to set a million dollars bail, we stand a risk that bail could be met.”

“His resources don’t matter to me,” he went on. “We understand that the agenda that was carried out yesterday is something that was adopted, and it’s sanctioned by larger groups and organizations well beyond the jurisdictional borders of Chautauqua County.”

Similar assaults were believed to be tied to the fatwa against “The Satanic Verses” as the Daily Mail reported attacks against translators and a publisher of the book. Ettore Capriolo, the Italian translator, was attacked with a knife in his Milan apartment while the Turkish translator, Aziz Nesin, was the target of a hotel arson attack that resulted in the deaths of 37.

Norwegian publisher William Nygaard was shot three times outside his home in Oct. 1993 where he managed to survive after being left for dead.

Rushdie seemed less concerned about the fatwa speaking to German magazine Stern two weeks prior, as detailed by the Post. “A fatwa like that is a serious matter, fortunately the Internet didn’t exist back then. The Iranians had to fax the fatwa to the mosques. That was a long time ago, you know, but now my life is relatively normal again.”

“I think many people today live with similar threats as I did then,” he had said. “And the fax machine that was used against me is like a bicycle against a Ferrari compared to the internet.”

Despite the facts of the case, public defender Nathaniel Barone went on to chide the treatment of the suspect who he said was left “hooked up to a bench at the state police barracks.”

“He has that constitutional right of presumed innocence,” Barone stated.

Matar is being held without bail and his next court appearance is scheduled for Friday.


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