Salman Rushdie’s attacker pleads not guilty to second-degree attempted murder

Hadi Matar (right) pleaded not guilty to the second-degree attempted murder of Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie (left) (Pictures: AP/Backgrid)

A man accused of has pleaded not guilty to second-degree attempted murder charges.

Hadi Matar, 24, appeared at the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, New York, on Thursday morning for his arraignment in the attack on the 75-year-old Satanic Verses author.

Matar, an Iranian sympathizer, was handcuffed and wore a gray, striped jail jumpsuit and a face mask.

In the courtroom, District Attorney Jason Schmidt said of Matar: ‘His mission to kill Mr Rushdie is greater in his mind and outweighs his personal freedom’. Schmidt argued that Matar should remain in custody.

Hadi Matar (right) listens as defense attorney Nathaniel Barone (left) speaks during an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, New York (Picture: AP)
Salman Rushdie was stabbed as he was about to deliver a speech at the Cahutauqua Institute in New York (Picture: AP)

Rushdie was about to deliver a lecture at the Chautauqua Institute when Matar allegedly stabbed him a dozen times. The author sustained four stab wounds to the stomach, three to the neck, punctures on his right eye and chest and laceration on his right thigh. He underwent an emergency surgery and could lose an eye, according to officials.

His son, Zafar Rushdie, 42, said the author was taken off a ventilator over the weekend and has been able to utter a few words.

On Thursday, Judge David Foley ordered Matar not to have contact with Rushdie. Foley granted a request by Matar’s lawyer to issue a temporary gag order prohibiting both parties to talk about the case with the media.

Matar’s next court appearance was scheduled for September 22.

Hadi Matar (left) is accused of carrying out a stabbing attack against author Salman Rushdie (Picture: AP)

He is being held at Chautauqua County Jail without bail. Foley said he would consider the defense team’s request to release Matar on bail.

Matar previously pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree attempted murder and first-degree assault in the attack last Friday.

Speaking from his prison cell, Matar on Wednesday said he was ‘surprised’ that Rushdie survived his attack.

‘I don’t like the person. I don’t think he’s a very good person, I don’t like him. I don’t like him very much,’ Matar told the . ‘He’s someone who attacked Islam, he attacked their beliefs, the belief systems.’

Hadi Matar (left) and defense attorney Nathaniel Barone (right) talk after an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse on Thursday (Picture: AP)

Matar said he traveled by bus from his Fairview, New Jersey home to Buffalo and then took a Lyft ride to get to the institute one day before the assault.

If convicted on the attempted murder and assault charges, Matar could be sentenced to up to 32 years in prison. He does not have a prior criminal record.

Matar’s next court date is September 22.

The stabbing took place 33 years after Iran’s supreme leader at the time, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a religious edict calling on Muslims to assassinate Rushdie several months after he published The Satanic Verses. The British-Indian author’s novel was inspired by the life of the Prophet Muhammed. But some Muslims view excerpts from the book as blasphemous.

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