Questioned by the New York Post on Wednesday, suspect Hadi Matar said he was “surprised” that Salman Rushdie survived the attack.
The suspect in the attack on Salman Rushdie pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault in a court in Mayville, New York on Thursday (August 18).
Hadi Matar, 24, had stabbed Salman Rushdie, author of Satanic Verses, to death during a conference Friday, August 12, in the nearby town of Chautauqua. Arrested immediately after the crime, the suspect had already pleaded not guilty in a hearing on Saturday. Hadi Matar spoke through the voice of his lawyer on Thursday, August 18, with his head bowed, masked, handcuffed and wearing black and white striped prison garb. The judge decided to hold the suspect in custody without bail. At the previous hearing, prosecutors called the attack premeditated. His lawyer Nathaniel Barone emphasized on Thursday that his client was entitled to a “fair trial” and respect for the “presumption of innocence”.
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Asked Wednesday by the New York Post, which claims to have contacted him in prison, Hadi Matar said he was “surprised” that Salman Rushdie survived the attack. The 75-year-old British author, who was stabbed a dozen times and evacuated to a hospital by helicopter, was briefly put on a ventilator before his condition improved. Hadi Matar did not say if he was inspired by the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran in 1989, calling for the death of the writer whose book The Satanic Verses was deemed blasphemous. He had just told the New York Post that he had “appreciation for the ayatollah.”
“I don’t like this person. I don’t think he’s a good man,” the suspect told the tabloid about the intellectual. “He is someone who has attacked Islam,” he added. After watching videos of the author on YouTube, he found him “hypocritical,” he continued. Hadi Matar has returned “changed” and more religious from a 2018 trip to Lebanon, his family’s country of origin, his mother told the Chron website on Monday.
Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa in 1989 calling for the assassination of Salman Rushdie, who had been under police protection for years. Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against the writer was never lifted and many of his translators were attacked. After three days of silence, Iran on Monday denied any involvement in the attack, blaming Salman Rushdie himself. “Only Salman Rushdie and his supporters deserve blame and even condemnation in this attack,” said Nasser Kanani, spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry.
Salman Rushdie, who has lived in New York for twenty years, became a US citizen in 2016. Despite the threat, he had appeared in public with increasing frequency, often without a visible escort, and continued to defend satire and irreverence in his books. In an interview with the German magazine “Stern” a few days before the attack on Friday, he was “optimistic” and confided: “Since I’ve been living in the USA, I haven’t had any problems (…) My life is back to normal.” Hadi Matar is scheduled to appear in court again on September 7.