Salman Rushdie: New Jersey man accused of stabbing author pleads not guilty to attempted murder charge

·3-min read

The New Jersey man accused of stabbing author Salman Rushdie on stage at a book event in New Yorkhas been charged with attempted murder.

The Chautauqua County District Attorney’s Office charged Hadi Matar with one count of second-degree attempted murder and one count of second-degree assault. He appeared in court on Saturday and pleaded not guilty.

Mr Matar, 24, from Fairview, New Jersey, was taken to Chautauqua County jail late on Friday night after he had been questioned by the authorities, Western New York News Now reported.

State police, the FBI, and the County DA are working on determining a motive for the attack. Mr Rushdie remains in hospital.

“The individual responsible for the attack yesterday, Hadi Matar, has now been formally charged with Attempted Murder in the Second Degree and Assault in the Second Degree,” Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt said in a statement on Saturday. “He was arraigned on these charges last night and remanded without bail.”

Investigators were awaiting a warrant on Friday to search Mr Matar’s backpack. Police had also blocked the street in New Jersey where a home believed to be connected to the suspect is located, according to Western New York News Now.

This still image from video shows Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, N.J., at left, being escorted from the stage (AP)
This still image from video shows Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, N.J., at left, being escorted from the stage (AP)

“Immediately after the attack, I was on scene to view the evidence in order to determine what needed to be further developed and preserved for prosecution,” Mr Schmidt added. “I then dispatched a prosecutor to stay with investigators and communicate information to me while I worked on a search warrant application which was signed last night by our County Court Judge, Hon David W Foley.”

Author Salman Rushdie talks about the start of his writing career, during the Mississippi Book Festival, in Jackson, Miss., on Aug. 18, 2018 (Copyright {2018} The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Author Salman Rushdie talks about the start of his writing career, during the Mississippi Book Festival, in Jackson, Miss., on Aug. 18, 2018 (Copyright {2018} The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

“Execution of the legal authority provided to us by that warrant has already occurred and is ongoing. We are working closely with State Police, our local police agencies and federal law enforcement partners to fully develop the evidence,” he said.

“We have been in touch with our counterparts in the State of New Jersey where the attacker is from to share information and assist them in helping us to better understand the planning and preparation which preceded the attack so that we and the different agencies involved can determine what, if any, additional charges should be asserted. This is the very early stage of what will invariably be a protracted legal process. We will try to be as transparent as we can without compromising the case,” the DA said, according to the local outlet.

In this still image from video, author Salman Rushdie is taken on a stretcher to a helicopter for transport to a hospital (AP)
In this still image from video, author Salman Rushdie is taken on a stretcher to a helicopter for transport to a hospital (AP)
People gather at an evening vigil for author Salman Rushdie after was attacked, Friday Aug. 12, 2022, in Chautauqua (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
People gather at an evening vigil for author Salman Rushdie after was attacked, Friday Aug. 12, 2022, in Chautauqua (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Mr Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, told The New York Times that the author was on a ventilator on Friday night and that he was unable to speak.

“Salman will likely lose one eye – the nerves in his arm were severed, and his liver was stabbed and damaged,” Mr Wylie told the paper. “The news is not good.”

Mr Matar stands accused of getting on to the stage and stabbing Mr Rushdie at least one time in the neck and at least once in the abdomen. Both staff and members of the audience intervened and detained the suspect, getting him to the ground before he was taken into custody by a state trooper.

Mr Rushdie was then airlifted to UPMC Hamot hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania.

The Indian-born author was in hiding for years after Iran pushed Muslims to kill him following the publication of The Satanic Verses. He has had a bounty on his head since 1989, Reuters reported.

A social media review by law enforcement revealed that he was aligned with Shi’ite extremism as well as the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), NBC New York reported. The outlet also noted that Mr Matar was born in California, that he recently moved to New Jersey, and that he had a fake driver’s license.