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Salman Rushdie: ‘Author’s road to recovery has begun’, officer says as stabbing suspect pleads not guilty

“He’s off the ventilator, so the road to recovery has begun,” Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, told CNN on Sunday. “It will take a long time – the injuries are serious. But his condition is moving in the right direction.”

The 75-year-old award-winning author — whose writings have threatened him with death for decades — was preparing for a lecture Friday at the Chautauqua Institute when a man jumped on stage and stabbed Rushdie in several places, including the neck and stomach.
Staff and guests then rushed to the stage and detained the suspect, identified as 24-year-old Hadi Matar, of Fairview, New Jersey, before a state trooper assigned to the event took him into custody, according to New York State Police.

The author’s injuries include three stab wounds to the right side of the front of his neck, four stab wounds to his stomach, stab wounds to his right eye and chest, and a laceration to his right thigh, Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt said during the arraignment on Saturday. matar.

Rushdie was flown to a hospital after the attack and underwent surgery, police said. The author may eventually lose his right eye, Schmidt said.

The author began speaking again on Saturday after being put on a ventilator previously, Wylie previously told the New York Times, adding that the attack had left Rushdie with liver and nerve damage.

Another speaker at the event, 73-year-old Ralph Henry Reese, suffered a minor head injury during the attack. He was taken to hospital by ambulance and later released with a facial injury.

Hadi Matar, 24, arrives for arraignment at the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, New York, Saturday, August 13, 2022.

The suspect pleads innocent

Matar pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree attempted murder and second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily harm with a deadly weapon, his public defender, Nathaniel Barone, told CNN on Saturday.

The lawyer said Matar has been “very cooperative” and communicated openly, but he did not discuss what was said during those talks.

Matar was denied bail and remanded to the Chautauqua County Jail. His next court hearing is Friday.

He faces up to 32 years if convicted on both charges, Schmidt said.

Salman Rushdie attack suspect pleads not guilty to second-degree attempted murder and assault, lawyer says

The FBI is now working with local and international authorities to investigate the attack on the Chautauqua Institute, which took place in front of an audience when Rushdie was introduced.

A witness, Joyce Lussier, was sitting in the second row when she saw a man jump across the stage and lunge at Rushdie. She heard people screaming and crying, she told CNN, and saw people from the audience running onto the stage.

Another witness, Stephen Davies, who videoed the moments just after Rushdie was attacked, said he couldn’t tell if the attacker had a knife in his hand.

“He jumped up on Mr. Rushdie and started beating him real quick with his hand,” Davies said. “I was completely stunned and shocked.”

Authorities have not disclosed what type of weapon was used in the attack.

The suspect had a ticket to the event which is now facing questions about its security procedures

The suspect arrived in Chautauqua at least a day before the event and bought a ticket to the event two days earlier, Schmidt said during Matar’s arraignment.

Matar traveled by bus to Chautauqua carrying cash, prepaid Visa cards and false identification, said Schmidt, who called the stabbing a “targeted, pre-planned, unprovoked attack on Mr. Rushdie.”

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There were no security screenings or metal detectors at the event, a person who witnessed the attack told CNN. The witness has not been identified as they were concerned for their personal safety.

This raises questions about the security measures at the host institution.

According to two sources who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity, the institution’s leadership had rejected recommendations for basic security measures, including bag checks and metal detectors, for fear it would create a divide between speakers and audience. .

Institution president Michael Hill defended his organization’s security plans when asked at a news conference on Friday whether more precautions would be taken at future events.

“We review for each event what we think is the right level of security, and this was definitely one that we thought was important, which is why we had a State Trooper and Sheriff there,” Hill said. “We will assess what we believe is the appropriate level of security for each of the events at the institution and that is an ongoing process that we are working on with local law enforcement.”

Matar – who authorities say has no documented criminal history – was described as a quiet person who mostly kept to himself. CNN spoke exclusively with State of Fitness Boxing Club owner Desmond Boyle, who said Matar enrolled at the gym in North Bergen, New Jersey, in April.

“You know that look, that look of ‘it’s the worst day of your life’? He came in like this every day,” Boyle told CNN on Saturday.

While the investigation continued, police were seen Friday night at the New Jersey home believed to be associated with the suspect.

A view from the roundabout of Hadi Matar's home as FBI members and local law enforcement are searched, in Fairview, New Jersey, United States on August 13, 2022.

Rushdie had a bounty on his head

Rushdie’s writings have won him several literary awards, but it was his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, that received the most criticism, as some Muslims found the book sacrilegious. The book, which led to demonstrations, was banned in several countries.

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The late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who described the book as an affront to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, issued a religious decree or fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989.

As a result, Rushdie began a decade under British protection.

The bounty against Rushdie has never been lifted, although in 1998 the Iranian government tried to distance itself from the fatwa by promising not to implement it.

However, in 2017, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was asked if the “fatwa against Rushdie was still in effect”, and he confirmed that it was, saying: “The decree is as issued by Imam Khomeini. “

Kiely Westhoff, Andy Rose, Paul P. Murphy, Aya Elamroussi, Ray Sanchez, Christina Maxouris, Artemis Moshtaghian, Sara Smart, Samantha Beech and Liam Reilly of CNN contributed to this report.

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