Suspect in ‘Satanic Verses’ author’s stabbing charged

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Prosecutors in New York have charged Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old New Jersey resident, with attempted second-degree murder on Saturday, after novelist Salman Rushdie was left in critical condition following a stabbing attack a day earlier.

“The individual responsible for the attack yesterday, Hadi Matar, has now been formally charged with attempted murder in the second degree and assault in the second degree,” Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt said in a statement.

“He was arraigned on these charges last night and remanded without bail,” Schmidt continued, noting that state and federal authorities are considering whether to apply additional charges.

Rushdie was attacked on Friday by a knife-wielding suspect while he gave a lecture on freedom of expression at the Chautauqua Institution. The 75-year-old Indian-born British-American author was stabbed in the neck and torso between 10 and 15 times, according to witnesses.

Rushdie was airlifted to hospital where he remains on a ventilator.

Matar, a 24-year-old from New Jersey, was arrested on the spot. FBI officials later searched his last-known address, and while a motive for the stabbing has not been identified, several news outlets reported that Matar had made social media posts in support of Iran, its military, and of “Shia extremism more broadly,” to quote the New York Post.

Rushdie’s 1988 novel ‘The Satanic Verses’ was condemned by Muslims for its allegedly blasphemous references to Islam and its holy book, the Koran. Iran’s late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989 calling for Rushdie’s death, and while Iran has officially walked back this edict, an Iranian religious foundation offered a $3.3 million bounty on the author’s head in 2012.

In the years since the fatwa was first issued, Rushdie’s Japanese translator was stabbed to death, while a stabbing attack left his Italian translator seriously injured. His Norwegian publisher was shot and injured, and his Turkish translator was the target of an attempted arson attack by an Islamist mob which left 37 people dead, but not the translator.

Rushdie lived under the protection of the British government from 1989 until 2002, after which time he gradually returned to public life.

Under New York law, Matar may face 25 years in prison if convicted of attempted murder.

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