SATANIC VERSES: Salman Rushdie’s attacker pleads not guilty

The man accused of stabbing Sir Salman Rushdie pleaded not guilty on Saturday to charges of attempted murder and assault, in what a prosecutor called a “pre-planned” crime, as the renowned author of The Satanic Verses remained in hospital with serious injuries.

A lawyer for Hadi Matar entered the plea on his behalf during a formal hearing at a court in western New York.

Matar appeared in court wearing a black and white jumpsuit and a white face mask, with his hands cuffed in front of him.

A judge ordered him to be held without bail after district attorney Jason Schmidt told her Matar took steps to purposely put himself in a position to harm Sir Salman, getting an advance pass to the event where the author was speaking and arriving a day early with a fake ID.

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“This was a targeted, unprovoked, pre-planned attack on Mr Rushdie,” Mr Schmidt said.

Public defender Nathaniel Barone said the authorities had taken too long to get Matar in front of a judge, while leaving him “hooked up to a bench at the state police barracks”.

“He has that constitutional right of presumed innocence,” Mr Barone added.

Sir Salman suffered serious injuries in the attack and remains in hospital.

The 75-year-old Indian-born British author is on a ventilator and may lose an eye and sustained nerve damage to his arm and damage to his liver in the attack, his agent has said.

Salman Rushdie

Sir Salman, whose novel The Satanic Verses led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was about to deliver a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution, 65 miles from Buffalo in New York state, when he was attacked.

He was stabbed at least once in the neck and once in the abdomen, according to police, before he was taken to hospital.

According to the NYT, Sir Salman’s agent Andrew Wylie said he is on a ventilator and unable to speak.

Mr Wylie added the news was “not good” and the author will “likely lose one eye”.

He said the nerves in Sir Salman’s arm were severed in the attack and his liver was “stabbed and damaged”.

Major Eugene Staniszweski of New York state police said late on Friday: “Earlier today at approximately 10.47am, guest speaker Salman Rushdie, aged 75, and Ralph Henry Reese, age 73, had just arrived on stage at the institution.

“Shortly thereafter, the suspect jumped on to the stage and attacked Mr Rushdie, stabbing him at least once in the neck and at least once in the abdomen.

“Several members of the staff at the institution and audience members rushed the suspect and took him to the ground, and shortly thereafter, a trooper who was at the institution took the suspect into custody with the assistance of a Chautauqua county sheriff’s deputy.

“Mr Rushdie was provided medical treatment by a doctor who was in the audience until EMS arrived on scene.”

Photos from the Associated Press (AP) news agency showed Sir Salman lying on his back with his legs in the air and a first responder crouched over him.

The Satanic Verses has been banned in Iran since 1988, as many Muslims view it as blasphemous, and its publication prompted Iran’s then-leader Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa calling for his death.