Suspect charged with stabbing writer Salman Rushdie

Police in the US have charged a man with stabbing author Salman Rushdie, who is being treated in hospital for serious injuries after he was attacked onstage at a literary event in New York state on Friday.

The Booker Prize-winning author, who has lived under Iran’s death threat for decades, can speak, according to his friends. On Saturday night, author Aatish Taseer tweeted that Rushdie, 75, was “on the ventilator and talking”. This was confirmed by Rushdie’s agent Andrew Wylie, according to the Associated Press.

Police said Rushdie suffered a stab wound to the neck and was flown by helicopter to the hospital where he was undergoing surgery. In a statement to Reuters on Friday, Wylie said Rushdie will “probably lose one eye; the nerves in his arm had been severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”

Police identified the suspect in the attack as Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey. New York State Police Major Eugene Staniszewski said there was no evidence yet of a possible motive for the attack.

State police said on Saturday that Matar had been charged with attempted murder and assault. Matar’s court-appointed lawyer told Reuters he pleaded not guilty.

Hadi Matar, 24, charged with stabbing Rushdie and pleaded not guilty on Saturday © AP

Rushdie was scheduled to speak Friday at the Chautauqua Institute, southwest of the city of Buffalo in western New York state.

“At about 11 a.m., a male suspect ran onto the stage and assaulted Rushdie and an interviewer,” New York State Police said.

US President Joe Biden expressed his shock and grief over the attack on Rushdie on Saturday. “All Americans and people around the world pray for his health and recovery.”

Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses, first published in 1988, caused controversy over how it portrayed the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The book was banned in Iran, and in 1989 Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie.

After the death threat, Rushdie went into hiding. He lived with armed guards and took the alias Joseph Anton.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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