Salman Rushdie: Man accused of attempted murder pleads innocent

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The suspect in the attack on Sir Salman Rushdie has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault.

After the attack, police arrested Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey.

He has been charged with attempted second-degree murder and second-degree assault, Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt said in a statement on Saturday.

He has been held in custody without bail. He made a plea before a New York court, the AP reports.

A lawyer for Matar argued on his behalf during an arraignment. Matar appeared in court wearing a black and white jumpsuit and a white face mask. His hands were cuffed in front of him.

Sir Salman, 75, suffered liver damage, fractured nerves in an arm and eye, was on a ventilator and was unable to speak, his agent Andrew Wylie said Friday night.

“The news is not good. Salman will probably lose one eye, the nerves in his arm have been severed and his liver has been stabbed and damaged.”

Josep Borrell, the European Union’s head of foreign policy, on Saturday condemned the attack and wished Sir Salman a speedy recovery.

“International rejection of such criminal actions, which violate fundamental rights and freedoms, is the only way to a better and more peaceful world,” he wrote in a tweet.

After the attack, both Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer paid tribute to Sir Salman.

The Prime Minister said: “It is appalling that Sir Salman Rushdie was stabbed while exercising a right that we should never cease to defend. Right now my thoughts are with his loved ones. We all hope he’s okay.

Sir Keir said: “Salman Rushdie has long embodies the struggle for freedom and liberty against those they want to destroy.

“This cowardly attack on him yesterday is an attack on those values. The entire Labor Party is praying for his full recovery.”

Sir Salman, whose novel The Satanic Verses sparked death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was about to lecture at the Chautauqua Institute in upstate New York when he was attacked.

New York State Police Major Eugene Staniszweski said late Friday: “Guest speaker Salman Rushdie, age 75, and Ralph Henry Reese, age 73, had just arrived on the institution’s podium.

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

“Several members of the institution’s staff and the public rushed to the suspect and took him to the ground, and shortly afterwards a trooper who was in the institution took the suspect into custody with the help of a deputy from the sheriff of Chautauqua.

“Mr Rushdie was treated medically by a doctor who was in the audience until the ambulance arrived.”

Sir Salman began his writing career in the early 1970s with two failed books for Midnight’s Children, about the birth of India, which won the Booker Prize in 1981.

It subsequently brought him worldwide fame and was named “best of the Bookers” on the 25th anniversary of the literary award.

The author lived in hiding in London for many years under a British government protection program after the fatwa was issued calling for his execution for The Satanic Verses.

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