Salman Rushdie attacker pleads not guilty to attempted murder, assault


Hadi Matar, the man accused of stabbing renowned author Salman Rushdie on stage in New York state last week, pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault.

Matar, 24, made the plea in a courtroom in Chautauqua County, New York. Earlier this week, prosecutors had said a grand jury had indicted him.

The 24-year-old suspect hails from New Jersey and is accused of stabbing Indian-born British author Rushdie in New York state last week during a lecture. In a media interview earlier this week, Matar praised Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini and admitted that he didn’t think that the author would survive. Ayatollah Khomeini was Iran’s Supreme Leader in 1989 when he announced a fatwa or a religious decree ordering Rushdie’s death, following the author publishing his book The Satanic Verses in 1988.

“When I heard he survived, I was surprised, I guess,” Matar told the New York Post.

However, Matar did not admit to being influenced by Ayatollah Khomeini. “I respect the ayatollah,” he reportedly said. “I think he’s a great person. That’s as far as I will say about that.” Matar said he only “read like two pages” of Rushdie’s novel. “I read a couple of pages. I didn’t read the whole thing cover to cover,” he said.

The accused further said that he was inspired to go to Chautauqua after seeing a tweet sometime in the winter announcing Rushdie’s visit, The New York Post reported.

“I don’t like the person (Rushdie). I don’t think he’s a very good person,” he said. “I don’t like him. I don’t like him very much. He’s someone who attacked Islam, he attacked their beliefs, the belief systems.”

He has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Friday.

Rushdie has suffered years of death threats over his book which was severely criticised by Islamic clerics. Earlier, a bounty of as high as $3 million was also declared for anyone who kills Rushdie.

Now 75, Rushdie is considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His second book Midnight’s Children not only won the Booker Prize, but also the recognition for being the best book among all Booker Prize winners. His fourth book, The Satanic Verses, was banned both in India and Pakistan, and later across the Muslim world, for allegedly insulting Prophet Mohammed. Rushdie was born into an Indian Muslim family in Bombay (now Mumbai) in June 1947, two months before India gained independence from the British on August 15, 1947.