Man accused of attacking Sir Salman Rushdie pleads not guilty

·2-min read
Man accused of attacking Sir Salman Rushdie pleads not guilty

The man accused of stabbing Sir Salman Rushdie on stage last week has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault charges.

Hadi Matar, 24, appeared at an afternoon hearing at Chautauqua County Court in New York state on Thursday after being indicted by a grand jury.

Pictures showed him in a grey striped jumpsuit and white face mask, with his hands shackled.

Matar, of Fairview, New Jersey, was arrested after allegedly rushing on to the stage at the Chautauqua Institution on Friday August 12, stabbing Sir Salman about a dozen times in front of a crowd, including in the neck and eye.

He was later charged 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.

Judge David Foley refused to grant Matar bail, according to court papers.

Defending, lawyer Nathaniel Barone argued Matar had no criminal record and would not flee the country if released.

Sir Salman Rushdie incident
Sir Salman Rushdie published The Satanic Verses in 1988 (Adam Butler/PA)

Mr Foley ordered the lawyers involved in the case not to give interviews to the media.

Chautauqua County district attorney Jason Schmidt told the court that Matar travelled to the area on Thursday August 11 from his home in New Jersey carrying “false identification, cash, prepaid Visa cards and multiple knives”.

Urging Mr Foley to deny bail, he said Matar’s “financial ability” exceeded any amount the court could set “due to the sympathy and the alignment of his personal views with an entire nation, and countless other groups and organisations with vast financial resources”.

Matar’s next court appearance was scheduled for September 7.

Sir Salman, 75, is being treated in a Pennsylvania hospital for severe wounds and, despite “life-changing” injuries, has retained his “usual feisty and defiant sense of humour”, his family previously said.

His literary agent, Andrew Wylie, said Sir Salman has a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and could lose an eye. He was taken off a ventilator on Saturday.

Salman Rushdie Assault
Hadi Matar appeared in court with his defence lawyer, Nathaniel Barone (Joshua Bessex/AP)

Sir Salman’s life has been in jeopardy since 1989, when Iran’s supreme leader at the time, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued an edict demanding his death over his novel The Satanic Verses, which was viewed as blasphemous by many Muslims.

A semi-official Iranian foundation had posted a bounty of more than three million US dollars (£2.5 million).

The author had just taken to the stage at the lakeside retreat for a talk about protection for writers in exile and freedom of expression when the stabbing happened.

Henry Reese, the co-founder of Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum, was onstage with Sir Salman and suffered a gash to his forehead, bruising and other minor injuries.