Salman Rushdie off ventilator and ‘road to recovery has begun’, says officer

Aug 14 (Reuters) – Salman Rushdie, the acclaimed author who was stabbed repeatedly during a public appearance in New York state on Friday, 33 years after Iran’s then Supreme Leader summoned him to kill him, is off a ventilator and his health is bad. improve, his agent and a son said on Sunday.

“He is off the ventilator, so the road to recovery has begun,” his agent, Andrew Wylie, wrote in an email to Reuters. “It will take a long time; the injuries are serious, but his condition is improving.”

Rushdie, 75, was due to lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York on the importance of the United States as a refuge for targeted artists when police said a 24-year-old man stormed onto the stage and stabbed him.

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The Indian-born writer has lived with a bounty on his head after the publication of his 1988 novel ‘The Satanic Verses’, which is viewed by some Muslims as blasphemous passages. In 1989, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa or edict calling for murder.

Writers and politicians around the world have condemned the attack. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that Iranian state institutions had incited generations of violence against Rushdie and that state-affiliated media had welcomed the attempt on his life.

“This is despicable,” Blinken said in a statement. “The United States and partners will not waver in our determination to confront these threats, using every appropriate tool at our disposal.”

The stabbing suspect, Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault in court on Saturday, his court-appointed attorney Nathaniel Barone told Reuters.

Neither local nor federal authorities have provided additional details about the investigation, including a possible motive.

An initial police check of Matar’s social media accounts showed that he was sympathetic to Shia extremism and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), according to NBC New York. The IRGC is a powerful faction that accuses Washington of conducting a global extremist campaign.

Rushdie was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania for treatment after the attack.

After hours of surgery, he was put on a ventilator and unable to speak as of Friday night, Wylie had said in an earlier health update, adding that he would likely lose an eye and damage nerves in his arm and wounds to his liver.

One of Rushdie’s sons said on Sunday that his father was in critical condition but was able to say a few words after being taken off the ventilator.

“While his life-changing injuries are serious, his usual snappy and defiant sense of humor remains intact,” Zafar Rushdie wrote on Twitter.

Authorities in Iran have made no public comment about the attack, although hard-hitting state media has celebrated it with headlines such as “Satan is blinded” and some Iranians have expressed support for the stabbing online.

However, many other Iranians expressed sympathy for Rushdie by posting on social media about their anger at the Islamic Republic’s ecclesiastical rulers for issuing the 1989 fatwa ordering Muslims to kill the author.

BOUNTY WORTH MILLIONS

Iranian organizations, some with ties to the government, have raised a multimillion-dollar bounty for Rushdie’s murder. Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said only in 2019 that the edict remained “irrevocable”.

Born in California, Matar recently moved to New Jersey, the NBC New York report said, adding that he was carrying a fake driver’s license.

Witnesses said Matar was not speaking when he attacked the author. He was arrested at the scene by a state trooper after being wrestled to the ground by onlookers.

Rushdie was stabbed 10 times, prosecutors said during Matar’s arraignment, according to the New York Times.

Prosecutors said in court that Matar traveled by bus to the Chautauqua Institute, an educational retreat about 12 miles from the shores of Lake Erie, and bought a pass that allowed him to attend Rushdie’s lecture, the Times reported. Those in attendance said there were no clear security checks.

Matar was the son of a man from Yaroun in southern Lebanon, according to Ali Tehfe, the city’s mayor. Matar’s parents immigrated to the United States, where he was born and raised, the mayor said, adding that he had no information about their political views.

Tehfe told Reuters on Sunday that Matar’s father had returned to Lebanon several years ago, and after news of Rushdie’s stabbing spread, he had locked himself in his home in Yaroun and refused to speak to anyone.

The Iranian-backed armed group Hezbollah has significant sway in Yaroun, where over the weekend posters of Khomeini and assassinated IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by a US drone strike in 2020, adorned the walls.

A Hezbollah official told Reuters on Saturday that the group had no additional information about the attack on Rushdie. read more

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Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Additional reporting by Maya Gebeily in Beirut and Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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