Published On: Sat, Aug 13th, 2022

Suspect in Salman Rushdie attack arrested on charges of attempted murder and assault

The man suspected of stabbing Salman Rushdie while on a lecture stage in upstate New York was arrested on a felony charge of second-degree attempted murder for the attack on the acclaimed novelist as well as second-degree assault for an injury to the event’s moderator, state police said Saturday.

The suspect — identified as Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey — was being held without bail in the Chautauqua County Jail and was expected to be arraigned later Saturday, Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt said.

Local prosecutors say they are in touch with law enforcement counterparts in New Jersey, “to better understand the planning and preparation which preceded the attack” and to determine if further charges are warranted.

“This is the very early stage of what will invariably be a protracted legal process,” Schmidt said in a statement. “We will try to be as transparent as we can without compromising the case.”

Rushdie, 75, had been undergoing surgery after he was stabbed at least once in the neck and abdomen during the Friday morning attack, police said. The author was on stage to speak at the Chautauqua Institution, about 70 miles south of Buffalo, when authorities say Matar confronted him.

Rushdie’s literary agent, Andrew Wylie, said Friday evening that he suffered a damaged liver, severed nerves in an arm and an eye, and was on a ventilator, The Associated Press reported. An update on his condition was not immediately available.

Henry Reese, 73, who was also on stage to moderate the discussion with Rushdie, suffered minor injuries to his face during the attack, police said. He was treated and released.

Rushdie drew controversy for his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses,” which portrayed the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and is considered by some Muslims to be blasphemous. In Iran, the book was banned and led Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death.

Authorities have not provided a motive in the attack. State police said the FBI and the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office were assisting in the investigation.

A preliminary review of Matar’s social media shows he had sympathies for Shia extremism and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation said.

Matar was apprehended after staff members of the Chautauqua Institution and other guests rushed the stage, police said.

In addition, the venue had beefed up its law enforcement presence for high-profile events, according to New York State Police Maj. Eugene Staniszewski, explaining why a trooper and a deputy were able to quickly mobilize at the scene.

“They requested a law enforcement presence be there,” Staniszewski told reporters Friday. “And thankfully, we were.”

Jonathan Dienst, Brittany Kubicko and Josh Cradduck contributed.

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