Iran denies involvement in the attack on Salman Rushdie

DUBAI – An Iranian government official on Monday denied that Tehran was involved in the attack on author Salman Rushdie, in comments that were the country’s first public comments on the attack.

The statements made by Nasser Kanaani, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, are well received two days after the attack on Rushdie in New York. The writer was taken off a ventilator and was “on the mend” according to his agent.

However, Iran has denied conducting other operations abroad against dissidents in the years since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, although prosecutors and Western governments attribute such attacks to Tehran. And while Iran hasn’t focused on the writer in recent years, a decades-old fatwa calling for his assassination still stands.


“We do not believe in the incident of the attack on Salman Rushdie in the US that anyone deserves blame and accusations other than him and his supporters,” Kanaani said. “Nobody has the right to blame Iran in this regard.”

Rushdie, 75, was stabbed to death Friday while attending an event in western New York. He suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye, his agent said. He would probably lose the injured eye.

His attacker, 24-year-old Hadi Matar, has pleaded not guilty through his attorney.

The award-winning author has faced death threats for The Satanic Verses for more than 30 years. The late Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, had issued a fatwa, or Islamic edict, calling for his death. A semi-official Iranian foundation had put a bounty on the author’s head of over $3 million, although it has not yet commented on the attack.

However, New York police have not yet given a motive for the attack District Attorney Jason Schmidt alluded to the bounty on Rushdie in dispute on bail during a hearing on Saturday.


“Even if this court were to set bail at $1 million, we run the risk of bail being honored,” Schmidt said.

According to the village mayor, Matar was born in the United States to parents who emigrated from Yaroun in southern Lebanon, near the Israeli border. Flags of the Iran-backed Shia militant group Hezbollah hang above the village along with portraits of Hezbollah and Iranian leaders. Israel has also bombed Hezbollah positions near them in the past.

In his comments Monday, Kanaani added that Iran had “no information other than what the American media has reported.”

That the West “condemns the acts of the aggressor and in return glorifies the acts of the offender of the Islamic faith is a contradictory attitude,” Kanaani said.

Khomeini, who was in ill health in the last year of his life after the country’s economy was decimated by the grueling, deadlocked Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, issued the fatwa in 1989 on Rushdie Roman, which some viewed as blasphemous, saying: hinted at the life of Prophet Muhammad.


While fatwas can be revised or revoked, The current Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who came to power after Khomeini, never did. As late as February 2017, Khamenei said: “The decree is as Imam Khomeini issued it.”

Since 1979, Iran has targeted dissidents abroad. Tensions with the West — particularly the United States — have been rising since then-President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled America out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018.

A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard general has been killed in a drone strike ordered by Trump in 2020, further fueling these tensions.

Last week, The US has indicted a member of the Guard in absentia for allegedly plotting to kill former Trump adviser and Iran hawk John Bolton. Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and an aide are under 24-hour surveillance for suspected threats from Iran.


Meanwhile, US prosecutors say Iran tried to kidnap him in 2021 an Iranian opposition figure and writer lives in New York. A man with an assault rifle was arrested near her home in recent days.

Other denials from the State Department are included Tehran’s handover of arms to Yemen’s Houthi rebels amid that country’s long civil war. Independent experts, western states and UN experts have traced weapons components back to Iran.


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Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Iran denies involvement in the attack on Salman Rushdie

Sarah Y. Kim

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