Hadi Matar, the suspect in the stabbing of author Salman Rushdie at an event in New York state, has been charged with attempted murder and is being held without bond, prosecutors in Chautauqua County said on Saturday.
Matar, a 24-year-old man from Fairview, New Jersey, was arraigned late on Friday, accused of attempted murder in the second degree and assault in the second degree, the county’s district attorney, Jason Schmidt, said in a statement.
Indian-born author Rushdie, who spent years in hiding after Iran urged Muslims to kill him over his novel “The Satanic Verses”, was stabbed in the neck and torso on stage at a lecture on Friday. After hours of surgery, Rushdie was on a ventilator and unable to speak as of Friday evening.
Schmidt said state and federal law enforcement agencies, including in New Jersey, were working to understand the planning and preparation which preceded the attack and determine whether additional charges should be filed.
Reuters could not immediately establish whether Matar, who bought a pass to the event at western New York’s Chautauqua Institution, had legal representation.
Police said on Friday they had not established a motive for the attack on Rushdie, 75, who was being introduced to give a talk to an audience of hundreds on artistic freedom when the attacker rushed to the stage and lunged at the novelist. Rushdie has lived with a bounty on his head since 1989.
A preliminary law enforcement review of Matar’s social media accounts showed he was sympathetic to Shi’ite extremism and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), although no definitive links had been found, according to NBC New York.
Matar was born in California and recently moved to New Jersey, the NBC New York report said, adding that he had a fake driver’s license on him. He was arrested at the scene by a state trooper after being wrestled to the ground by audience members.
FBI officials went to Matar’s last listed address, in Fairview, a Bergen County borough just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, on Friday evening, NBC New York reported.
Police in New York declined to comment on the report. New Jersey police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.
The IRGC is a powerful faction that controls a business empire as well as elite armed and intelligence forces that Washington accuses of carrying out a global extremist campaign.
Rushdie, who was born into a Muslim Kashmiri family in Bombay, now Mumbai, before moving to Britain, has long faced death threats for “Satanic Verses”. The 1988 novel, viewed by some Muslims as containing blasphemous passages, was banned in many countries with large Muslim populations.
In 1989, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Iran’s supreme leader, pronounced a fatwa, or religious edict, calling on Muslims to kill the author and anyone involved in the book’s publication for blasphemy. Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator of the novel, was stabbed to death in 1991 by an attacker who fled.
There has been no official government reaction in Iran to the attack on Rushdie, but several hardline Iranian newspapers expressed praise for his assailant.
Iranian organizations, some linked to the government, have raised a bounty worth millions of dollars for Rushdie’s murder. Khomeini’s successor as supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said as recently as 2019 that the fatwa was “irrevocable.”
Ali Tehfe, mayor of Yaroun in southern Lebanon, said Matar was the son of a man from the town. The suspect’s parents emigrated to the United States and he was born and raised there, the mayor added.
Asked whether Matar or his parents were affiliated with or supported the Iran-backed Hezbollah armed group in Lebanon, Tehfe said he had “no information at all” on their political views.
A Hezbollah official told Reuters on Saturday that the group had no additional information on the attack on Rushdie.
The stabbing was condemned by writers and politicians around the world as an assault on freedom of expression.