A 24 year old man was charged with attempted murder in Friday’s stabbing attack on Salman Rushdie, the Indian-born author who received death threats from Iran in the 1980s.
Rushdie, 75, was assaulted on Friday morning in Chautauqua, N.Y., by a man who rushed to the stage where the author was scheduled to speak, state police said. New York. Rushdie was airlifted to a local hospital with a stab wound to his neck and chest, police said.
Rushdie’s agent said on Friday the author had undergone surgery and was on a ventilator, with a damaged liver, severed nerves in his arm and could lose an eye. On Saturday night, Rushdie was off the ventilator and able to speak, his agent confirmed to The Associated Press.
Hadi Matar, of Fairview, NJ, has been charged with attempted murder and assault. On Saturday afternoon, Matar pleaded not guilty, the AP reported. He is being held without bail, police said.
The world-renowned author was attending a series of lectures at the Chautauqua Institution as a guest speaker when the incident occurred. According to a police statement, a suspect charged into the scene and attacked Rushdie and an investigator around 11 a.m. ET. The suspect was immediately taken into custody.
State Police Maj. Eugene Staniszewski said the interviewer, Henry Reese, was treated at a local hospital for a minor head injury and has since been released.
Reese is the co-founder of City of Asylum, a residency program for writers in exile, and was on stage with Rushdie during the attack.
Chautauqua facility president Michael Hill said security needs for events are assessed on a case-by-case basis.
“I would say that we take our security measures very, very seriously,” he said at the press conference.
The institution said a state trooper and a sheriff’s officer attended because of the significance of this particular event. Matar had purchased a pass for the event like other attendees, Hill said.
“What we experienced at Chautauqua today was an unprecedented incident in our nearly 150-year history,” Hill said. “Today, now, we are called to confront fear and the worst of all human traits; hate.”
Rushdie was visiting the institution to talk with Reese about how the United States serves as a haven for writers in exile, according to the institution’s Chautauqua event page.
Rushdie has written 14 novels, including satanic versesone of his most popular books, which resulted in death threats against the author from the Iranian leader in 1989.
Beyond his work as a writer, Rushdie has long championed the importance of freedom of expression. He was president of PEN America between 2004 and 2006, then president of the PEN World Voices International Literary Festival for 10 years.
PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement that the organization was shocked to learn of the attack. Rushdie had emailed him hours before the attack to help place Ukrainian writers seeking asylum.
“Salman Rushdie was targeted for his lyrics for decades but never flinched or wavered,” Nossel said. “He devoted tireless energy to helping those who were vulnerable and at risk.”
President Biden said Saturday that he and first lady Jill Biden were “praying for his health and recovery.” Biden said Rushdie “represents essential and universal ideals. Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear. … We reaffirm our commitment to these deeply American values in solidarity with Rushdie and all those who defend freedom of expression.