The suspect in the attack on Sir Salman Rushdie has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder.
Hadi Matar, 24, was formally charged with attempted murder after the author was attacked on stage in Chautauqua, New York state, on Friday (08.12.22) – but his lawyer denied the charge during an arraignment hearing on Saturday.
Jason Schmidt, the Chautauqua County District Attorney, said prior to the hearing: “The individual responsible for the attack, Hadi Matar, has now been formally charged with attempted murder in the second degree and assault in the second degree.”
The police believe that the suspect was acting alone. However, Schmidt confirmed that the state and federal authorities are still looking at whether any additional charges can be added.
Meanwhile, Andrew Wylie – the agent of ‘The Satanic Verses’ author – has confirmed that Rushdie is on a ventilator and unable to speak.
Revealing the extent of Rushdie’s injuries, he said in a statement: “Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”
The Indian-born writer rose to fame in the 1980s, when his book ‘Midnight’s Children’ sold more than one million copies in the UK.
However, his fourth book, ‘The Satanic Verses’, forced him into hiding for a decade amid accusations that the controversial novel was blasphemous.
The book prompted anti-Rushdie riots in India and protests in various other locations around the world.
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, even called for Rushdie’s execution and he offered $3 million as a reward.
Rushdie was born to non-practising Muslims and is now an atheist. He has also frequently spoken out in support of freedom of expression, despite ongoing criticism of his work.