Prosecutor: Stab attack on Salman Rushdie was ‘pre-planned’ – Boston News, Weather, Sports

MAYVILLE, NY (AP) – The man charged in the piercing attack Salman Rushdie pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault on Saturday, which a prosecutor described as a “preplanned” crime, as the renowned author of “The Satanic Verses” remained hospitalized with serious injuries.

An attorney for Hadi Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an indictment hearing in western New York. The suspect appeared in court wearing black and white overalls and a white face mask, his hands tied in front of him.

A judge ordered him held without bail after District Attorney Jason Schmidt told her Matar had taken steps to intentionally put himself in a position to harm Rushdie, receive an advance for the event at which the author was speaking, and arrived a day early with a fake ID.

“This was a targeted, unprovoked, pre-planned attack on Mr. Rushdie,” Schmidt said.

Public defender Nathaniel Barone complained that it took authorities too long to bring Matar before a judge while leaving him “connected to a bank at the state police barracks.”

“He has this constitutional right to be presumed innocent,” Barone added.

Matar, 24, is accused Attack on Rushdie on Friday when the author was introduced at a talk at the Chautauqua Institute, a nonprofit education and retreat center.

Rushdie, 75, suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in one arm and one eye, was on a ventilator and unable to speak, his agent Andrew Wylie said Friday night. Rushdie would probably lose the injured eye.

The attack was met with shock and outrage across much of the world, along with tributes and praise for the award-winning author, who has faced death threats for The Satanic Verses for more than 30 years.

Authors, activists and government officials have commended Rushdie for his bravery in his long-standing commitment to free speech despite the risks to his own safety. Writer and longtime friend Ian McEwan called Rushdie “an inspirational defender of persecuted writers and journalists around the world,” and actor and author Kal Penn called him a role model “for an entire generation of artists, especially for many of us in the South Asian diaspora.” , to whom he showed incredible warmth.”

President Joe Biden said in a statement Saturday that he and First Lady Jill Biden were “shocked and saddened” by the attack.

“Salman Rushdie — with his insight into humanity, with his unmatched sense of story, with his refusal to be intimidated or silenced — represents essential, universal ideals,” the statement said. “Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear. These are the building blocks of any free and open society.”

Rushdie, an Indian by birth who has since lived in the UK and US, is known for his surreal and satirical prose style, beginning with his Booker Prize-winning 1981 novel Midnight’s Children, in which he harshly criticized the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi.

“The Satanic Verses” drew death threats upon its release in 1988, with many Muslims considering, among other things, a dream sequence based on the life of Prophet Muhammad as blasphemy. Rushdie’s book had already been banned and burned in India, Pakistan and elsewhere before Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, in 1989 calling for Rushdie’s death.

Khomeini died that same year, but the fatwa remains in effect. Iran’s current Supreme Leader, Khamenei, has never issued his own fatwa withdrawing the edict, although Iran has not focused on the author in recent years.

Investigators worked to determine if the attacker, who was born a decade after The Satanic Verses was released, acted alone.

Prosecutor Schmidt alluded to the fatwa as a possible motive for arguing against bail.

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

“I don’t care about his resources. We understand that the agenda carried out yesterday was embraced and sanctioned by larger groups and organizations well beyond the jurisdictional boundaries of Chautauqua County,” the prosecutor said.

Authorities said Matar was from Fairview, New Jersey. He was born in the United States to Lebanese parents who emigrated from Yaroun in southern Lebanon, the village’s mayor, Ali Tehfe, told The Associated Press.

Flags of the Iran-backed Shia militant group Hezbollah and portraits of leader Hassan Nasrallah, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his late predecessor Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and slain Iranian general Qassem Soleimani can be seen throughout the village, which also has a small Christian population Has .

Journalists visiting the village on Saturday were told to leave the village. Hezbollah spokesmen did not respond to inquiries about Matar and the attack.

Iran’s theocratic government and its state-run media gave no motive for the attack. in Tehran, Some Iranians interviewed by AP praised the attack on an author they believe sullied the Islamic faith, while others feared it would further isolate their country.

An AP reporter seen the attacker stab or hit Rushdie about 10 or 15 times. dr Martin Haskell, a doctor who rushed to those who rushed to the rescue, described Rushdie’s wounds as “serious but curable.”

Event host Henry Reese, 73, suffered a facial injury and was treated and discharged from a hospital, police said. He and Rushdie had planned to speak about the United States as a haven for exiled writers and other artists.

A state police officer and a county sheriff’s deputy were assigned to hear Rushdie’s presentation, and state police said the officer made the arrest. But afterward, some longtime visitors to the center questioned why there weren’t tightened security measures, given the threats against Rushdie and a more than $3 million bounty on his head.

The stabbing echoed from the tranquil town of Chautauqua to the United Nations, which issued a statement expressing the horror of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and stressing that freedom of speech and opinion should not be met with violence.

The Iranian mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Following the publication of The Satanic Verses, protests, often violent, erupted across the Muslim world against Rushdie, who was born into a Muslim family and has long identified as an infidel and once described himself as a “stubborn atheist.”

At least 45 people have been killed in riots over the book, including 12 people in Rushdie’s hometown of Mumbai. In 1991, a Japanese translator of the book was stabbed and an Italian translator survived a knife attack. In 1993, the Norwegian publisher of the book was shot three times and survived.

The death threats and bounty prompted Rushdie to go into hiding under a UK government protection program that included a 24-hour armed guard. Rushdie emerged after nine years of seclusion and cautiously resumed more public appearances, while maintaining his outspoken criticism of religious extremism overall.

In 2012, Rushdie published a memoir on the fatwa entitled “Joseph Anton,” the pseudonym Rushdie used while in hiding. He said during a New York lecture that year that terrorism really is the art of fear.

“The only way to defeat it is to choose not to be afraid,” he said.

The Chautauqua Institution, about 55 miles (89 kilometers) southwest of Buffalo in rural New York, has served as a place of reflection and spiritual guidance for more than a century. Visitors don’t go through metal detectors or bag checks, and most people leave the doors of their centuries-old cottages unlocked at night.

The center is known for its summer lecture series, where Rushdie has spoken before.

A Friday night vigil brought several hundred residents and visitors together for prayer, music and a long moment of silence.

“Hate can’t win,” shouted one man.

(Copyright (c) 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed, or redistributed.)

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Nate Jones

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