The family of the 75-year-old author — who has been in danger for decades because of his writing — said he was in critical condition Sunday after the attack, which ended with the attacker and bystanders holding the attacker and Rushie airlifted. in the hospital.
“Although his life-changing injuries are serious, his usual cheekiness and sense of humor remain,” his son Zafar Rushdie said in a statement on Sunday.
Rushdie was taken off a ventilator over the weekend but is still being treated for three stab wounds to the neck, four stab wounds to the abdomen, puncture wounds to his right eye and chest, and a laceration to his right thigh, Chautauqua County said. District Attorney Jason Schmidt said Saturday that the author could lose his right eye.
The suspect, 24-year-old Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey, was arrested and taken into custody by state troopers after the attack.
Authorities are investigating what led to the stabbing, which has prompted the state to increase its police presence in Chautauqua, New York State Police Superintendent Kevin Bruen said.
Rushdie’s writing has won him literary prizes — and much scrutiny. His fourth novel, “The Satanic Verses”, was condemned by some Muslims who found it offensive. The late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who described the book as an insult to Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, issued a religious edict, or fatwa, in 1989 calling for Rushdie’s death.
“Regarding the attack on Salman Rushdie, we do not blame anyone other than (Rushdi) and his supporters, and it is absolutely condemnable,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani told a televised news conference on Monday.
Iranian officials “clearly and seriously deny any connection of the attacker to Iran,” Kanani added, according to Iranian state media. “We have not seen anything about the perpetrator other than what we have seen in the American media. We categorically and vehemently deny that the attacker has any ties to Iran.”
What do we know about ‘targeted, premeditated’ attacks?
Rushdie was being introduced for a lecture at the Chautauqua Institute on Friday when a man came on stage and stabbed him in front of a stunned audience.
According to New York State Police, staff members and guests ran on stage and grabbed the assailant before a state trooper assigned to the event took him into custody.
Another speaker, Ralph Henry Reese, was injured in the attack and received a minor head injury.
“It was very hard to understand. It seemed like some kind of bad prank and it had no sense of reality,” Reese told CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” “And then when he had blood on his back, it became real.”
Joyce Lussier was sitting in the second row when she watched the attack unfold. She told CNN that she heard people screaming and crying, and saw people in the audience running on stage.
The suspect, Pea, arrived in Chautauqua at least a day before the event and bought a pass for it two days in advance, authorities said.
Schmidt called the stabbing a “targeted, premeditated, unprovoked attack on Mr. Rushdie,” adding that Mutter traveled to Chautauqua by bus with cash, a prepaid Visa card and false identification.
A knife was used in the crime complaint against Mater.
It remains unclear how the suspect entered the event with the knife. There were no security searches or metal detectors at the event, said a witness who CNN did not identify because he expressed concern for his personal safety.
“We evaluate what we think is the appropriate level of security for each event, and this was certainly one that we felt was important, which is why we had state troopers and sheriffs there,” said organization president Michael Hill, who defended it. The organization’s security plans were asked at a press conference on Friday if more precautions would be taken at future events.
On Sunday, New York Governor Cathy Hochul met the Chautauqua Institute stage crew and the police force that helped subdue Rushdie’s alleged attacker, calling them heroes.
“The team that was on the ground here and the EMTs, the firefighters and the people that showed up and literally kept that guy alive and they were taking him away did a fantastic job,” the governor said.
The suspect, described as ‘quiet’, pleaded not guilty
Mutter — who authorities said has no documented criminal history — pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree attempted murder and second-degree assault with intent to inflict bodily injury with a deadly weapon, his public defender, Nathaniel Barone, told CNN. Saturday.
Peas has been “very cooperative” and has been communicating openly, the lawyer said, without discussing what was said in those conversations.
“Mr. Mutter enjoys the same rights of innocence, a fair trial and due process as every person in our country,” Barron said Monday.
Barron cannot discuss any matters or concerns with Mutter due to client confidentiality and is looking forward to a preliminary hearing on Aug. 19, he said.
If convicted on both charges, Mater faces up to 32 years in prison, Schmidt said.
Mutter was described as a quiet person who mostly kept to himself.
The suspect registered in April at the State of Fitness boxing club in North Bergen, New Jersey, gym owner Desmond Boyle told CNN.
“You know that look, ‘This is the worst day of your life,'” Boyle told CNN on Saturday.
Mutter came to the gym three or four times a week and was “a very quiet kid,” gym member Roberto Irizarry told CNN.
“It’s a brotherly atmosphere, a family atmosphere — we try to get everybody involved. He was there for himself,” Irizarry said.
Rushdie received an outpouring of support
The attack on the renowned author prompted an outpouring of support from leaders around the world.
US President Joe Biden said in a statement that he was saddened by the attack.
“Salman Rushdie — with his insight into humanity, his inimitable sense for story, his denial or refusal to remain silent — stands for essential, universal ideals. Truth. Courage, resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear. These are the hallmarks of any free and open society. There are building blocks,” Biden said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a tweet that he was “horrified” by the attack on Rushdie, who is also a British citizen, and began a decade under British protection after the fatwa was issued.
“Shocked to see Sir Salman Rushdie stabbed, we must never stop defending. My thoughts are with his loved ones right now. We all hope he is OK,” Johnson said on Friday.
Rushdie’s ex-wife, TV host Padma Lakshmi, said in a tweet on Sunday that “Rushdie is resting after Friday’s nightmare.”
“Anxious and speechless, can finally breathe. Hope for a speedy recovery now,” she said.
Suzanne Nossell, CEO of press freedom nonprofit PEN America, said in a statement: “PEN America is shocked and horrified by word of the brutal, premeditated attack on our former president and staunch ally, Salman Rushdie, who was stabbed multiple times. At the Chautauqua Institute in upstate New York while speaking on stage. We can think of no incident comparable to the public attack on a literary man on American soil.”
“Salman Rushdie has been targeted for decades for his words, but they have never wavered or wavered,” Nossell added. “He has devoted tireless energy to helping others who are vulnerable and at risk.”
As the motive behind Friday’s stabbing remains under investigation, New York’s governor condemned the attack.
“I want it there that a man with a knife can’t calm a man with a pen,” Hochul said.
CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian, Liam Reilly, Samantha Beach, Keith Allen, Adam Pourhmadi, Alex Stambaugh and Brian Stelter contributed to this report.