An Iranian government official on Monday denied that Tehran was involved in the attack on author Salman Rushdie, in remarks that were the country’s first public comments on the attack.
The comments by Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani come two days after the Rushdie bombing in New York.
However, Iran has denied carrying out any other overseas operations targeting dissidents in the years following the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, despite prosecutors and Western governments blaming the attacks on Tehran. .
“We in the Salman Rushdie attack incident in the United States do not consider that anyone deserves blame and accusation other than him and his supporters,” Kanaani said. “No one has the right to accuse Iran in this regard.”
Rushdie, 75, was stabbed Friday while attending an event in western New York. He suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and eye, his agent said. He was in danger of losing the injured eye.
His attacker, 24-year-old Hadi Matar, pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the attack through his lawyer.
The award-winning author of more than 30 years has faced death threats for “The Satanic Verses.” Iran’s late supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, had issued a fatwa, or Islamic edict, demanding his death. A semi-official Iranian foundation had paid a bounty of more than $3 million to the perpetrator, although it has yet to comment on the attack.
Kanaani added that Iran had “no other information than that reported by the American media”.
The West “condemning the actions of the aggressor and in return glorifying the actions of the insulter to Islamic beliefs is a contradictory attitude,” Kanaani said.
Khomeini, in poor health during the last year of his life after the stalled Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s decimated the country’s economy, issued the fatwa on Rushdie in 1989. The edict Islam intervened amid a violent uproar in the Muslim world over the novel, which some saw as making blasphemous suggestions about the life of the Prophet Muhammad.
While fatwas can be revised or revoked, Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – who succeeded Khomeini – has never done so. As recently as February 2017, Khamenei said: “The decree is the one that Imam Khomeini issued.
Since 1979, Iran has targeted dissidents abroad in attacks. Tensions with the West – particularly the United States – have risen since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in 2018.
A Trump-ordered drone strike killed a top Iranian Revolutionary Guard general in 2020, further fueling those tensions.
Last week, the United States indicted a member of the Guard in absentia for allegedly conspiring to kill former Trump adviser and Iranian hawk John Bolton. Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and an aide are under 24-hour security for alleged threats from Iran.
Meanwhile, US prosecutors say Iran attempted to kidnap an Iranian opposition activist and writer living in New York in 2021. In recent days, a man armed with an assault rifle was arrested near her home.
Other Foreign Ministry denials have included Tehran transferring arms to Houthi rebels in Yemen amid that country’s long civil war. Independent experts, Western nations and UN experts have traced weapon components to Iran.
New York Post