The writer, whose books have won him awards, was conscious on Monday and able to answer investigators’ questions, according to the law enforcement official.
It’s unclear what Rushdie told investigators following the attack that rocked the literary world and prompted immediate condemnation from around the world.
The attack suspect, identified as 24-year-old Hadi Matar, allegedly jumped onto the scene at the Chautauqua facility, about 70 miles southwest of Buffalo, New York, and rushed towards Rushdie, stabbing him repeatedly, according to New York State. Police. The suspect was restrained by members of the public and staff who forced him to the ground until he was arrested by a state trooper.
The author suffered three stab wounds to the neck, four stab wounds to the stomach, punctures to his right eye and chest and a laceration to his right thigh, said Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt, during Matar’s arraignment over the weekend. Rushdie could lose sight in his right eye, he noted, adding that the attack was targeted and planned in advance.
Officials believe Matar, who lived in Fairview, New Jersey, traveled to Buffalo by bus and used a ride-sharing app to reach Chautauqua the day before the attack, according to the law enforcement official. who spoke to CNN.
Investigators do not know where Matar spent the night and they are working with the institution to go through surveillance footage to determine if he was near the area overnight, the official added.
When arrested, Matar had a fake driver’s license, cash, two Visa prepaid gift cards and no wallet, the official told CNN. Matar refused to answer questions from authorities when he was taken into custody and asked for a lawyer, the law enforcement official said.
Public defender Nathaniel Barone, who represents Matar, told CNN his client has been “very cooperative” and is communicating openly.
Matar pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted second-degree murder and second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily harm with a deadly weapon, Barone said.
What we know about the suspect
The motive for the attack remains unclear and authorities are examining the items they took from Matar’s New Jersey home, according to the law enforcement source.
Matar, who has no documented criminal history, is charged with using a knife in the attack, according to a felony complaint.
It is still unclear how he was able to enter the event armed with a knife. There were no security searches or metal detectors at the event, said a witness whom CNN did not identify as he expressed concerns for his personal safety.
Matar has been described as quiet and mostly on his own, according to people who interacted with him at a boxing gym in North Bergen, New Jersey.
Desmond Boyle, the owner of the State of Fitness Boxing Club, told CNN that Matar signed up there in April.
“You know that look, that ‘this is the worst day of your life’ look? It came up every day like that,” Boyle told CNN.
Gym member Roberto Irizarry told CNN that Matar went to the gym about three or four times a week and was “a very calm kid.”
“It’s a brotherly environment, a family environment – we try to involve everyone. He was pretty much on his own,” Irizarry said.
Matar faces up to 32 years if convicted, the district attorney said.
United States condemns statement by Iranian government
The assault on the famous author has won him the support of writers and officials around the world.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “appalled” by the attack on Rushdie, who is also a British citizen.
“Appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie was stabbed while exercising a right that we should never stop defending. At this time my thoughts are with his loved ones.”
Rushdie began living under British protection after Iran issued the fatwa calling for his death.
“We do not consider anyone but (Rushdie) and his supporters worthy of blame and even condemnation,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani told a televised press conference.
Iranian officials have learned nothing about the suspect other than what US media has reported, Kanaani said, according to Iranian state media. “We categorically and seriously deny any connection of the aggressor with Iran,” Kanaani added.
The US State Department has denounced Iran’s position, saying the comments are “despicable” and “disgusting”.
“It’s no secret that the Iranian regime has been at the center of threats to his life for years now,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price, who called the “jubilation of Iran in the face of the “absolutely outrageous” attack.
“We want to make it very clear that this is not something we can tolerate,” Price said.
In 1998, the Iranian government sought to distance itself from the fatwa by pledging not to seek to enforce it. Despite this, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reaffirmed the religious edict.
In February 2017, on Khamenei’s official website, the supreme leader was asked if the “fatwa against Rushdie was still in effect”, to which Khamenei confirmed that it was, saying: “The decree is as that Imam Khomeini published”.
CNN’s Nicki Brown, Liam Reilly, Artemis Moshtaghian, Kristina Sgueglia, Samantha Beech, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, David Romain, Nouran Salahieh, Adam Pourahmadi, Alex Stambaugh, Michael Conte and Christian Sierra contributed to this report.