MAYVILLE, N.Y. — The man accused of stabbing acclaimed author Salman Rushdie last week during an event in western New York pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of murder and assault following a grand jury indictment, according to multiple reports.
Authorities on Friday arrested Hadi Matar, 24, after police said he jumped onto a stage at the Chautauqua Institution and stabbed Rushdie in the neck and chest. Officials said the attack also injured 73-year-old Henry Reese, the co-founder of the Pittsburgh nonprofit City of Asylum, who was scheduled to speak on-stage with Rushdie.
Matar’s attorney, Nathaniel Barone, told Reuters on Thursday that a grand jury indicted his client on one count each of second-degree attempted murder and second-degree assault. He pleaded not guilty to the charges at a later court appearance, according to Reuters.
On Saturday, Matar’s attorney pleaded not guilty on his client’s behalf to initial charges of second-degree murder and second-degree assault filed in the case, the Associated Press reported. A judge ordered that Matar be held without bail in Chautauqua County Jail, according to police.
Rushdie is undergoing treatment after suffering injuries including stab wounds to his neck and stomach, puncture wounds to his right eye and chest and a laceration on his thigh, CNN reported, citing Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt.
The 75-year-old author has been the subject of multiple threats since the publishing of his 1988 book “The Satanic Verses,” which some Muslims saw as blasphemous. In 1989, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran issued an edict calling for Rushdie’s death, prompting the Indian-born author to go into hiding, according to the AP and The Washington Post.
In an interview Wednesday with the New York Post, Matar said that he had “read like two pages” of “The Satanic Verses” and that he was inspired to go the Chautauqua Institute last week after seeing a social media post that announced Rushdie’s planned visit last year.
“I don’t like the person. I don’t think he’s a very good person,” Matar said, according to the New York Post. He added that Rushdie is “someone who attacked Islam, he attacked their beliefs, the belief systems.”
“The Satanic Verses” sparked backlash from Muslims who believed that depictions of Islam in the book were insulting, according to NPR. The story included a reimagining of parts of the Prophet Muhammad’s life and included other references to Islam and the Quran, NPR and The Washington Post reported.
In 2012, Rushdie told NPR that his goal “was not to write only about Islam.”
“It was to talk about the nature of revelation and also to suggest that when a big, new idea comes into the world, it must answer two challenges. One is the challenge of how do you behave when you’re weak? And the other, how do you behave when you’re strong?” he said.
In a statement released Sunday, Rushdie’s son, Zafar Rushdie, said that his father had been taken off a ventilator and was able to speak after Friday’s attack.
“Though his life changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty (and) defiant sense of humour remains intact,” he wrote on behalf of his family. “We are so grateful to all the audience members who bravely leapt to his defence and administered first aid along with the police and doctors who have cared for him and for the outpouring of love and support from around the world.”
©2022 Cox Media Group