“He is off the ventilator, so the road to recovery has begun,” his agent, Andrew Wiley, wrote in an email to Reuters. “It will be long; the injuries are severe, but his condition is going in the right direction.
Rushdie, 75, was about to give a lecture at the Chautauqua Institute in western New York about the importance of the US as a haven for targeted artists when police said a 24-year-old man ran on stage and stabbed the novelist. .
The Indian-born author has been living with a bounty on his head since the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses in 1988, which some Muslims believe contains blasphemous passages. In 1989, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for his assassination.
Stabbing suspect Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault in court on Saturday, his court-appointed attorney, Nathaniel Barone, told Reuters.
Neither local nor federal authorities have offered additional details of the investigation, including a possible motive.
An initial review by law enforcement of Matar’s social media accounts revealed that he sympathized with Shiite extremism and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), NBC New York reported. QUEER is a powerful faction that Washington accuses of waging a global extremist campaign.
Rushdie was airlifted to a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, for treatment after the attack.
Hours after the operation, he was put on a ventilator and was unable to speak Friday night, Wiley said in an earlier health update, adding that he is likely to lose an eye and has nerve damage in his arm and wounds on his liver
One of Rushdie’s sons said Sunday that his father remained in critical condition but was able to say a few words after coming off the ventilator.
“While his life-changing injuries are serious, his usual cheeky and cheeky sense of humor remains intact,” Zafar Rushdie wrote on Twitter.
Writers and politicians around the world have condemned the stabbings as an attack on free speech. In a statement Saturday, President Joe Biden praised the “universal ideals” of truth, courage and resilience that Rushdie and his work embodied.
“These are the building blocks of any free and open society,” Biden said.
Iranian authorities have made no public comment on the attack, although hard-line state media celebrated it with headlines including “Satan was blinded” and some Iranians expressed support online for the stabbing.
However, many other Iranians expressed their sympathy for Rushdie, posting on social media their anger at the Islamic Republic’s spiritual leaders for issuing a 1989 fatwa ordering Muslims to kill the author.
Bounty for millions
Iranian organizations, some linked to the government, have collected millions of dollars in rewards for Rushdie’s murder. Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said back in 2019 that the decree remains “irrevocable.”
Matar was born in California and recently moved to New Jersey, NBC New York reported, adding that he had a fake driver’s license.
Eyewitnesses said that Matar did not speak when he attacked the author. He was arrested at the scene by a state trooper after spectators tackled him to the ground.
Prosecutors said Rushdie was stabbed 10 times during Matar’s prosecution, according to The New York Times.
Prosecutors said in court that Matar took a bus to the Chautauqua institution, an educational center about 12 miles from the shores of Lake Erie, and purchased a pass that allowed him to attend Rushdie’s lecture, the Times reported. Those present said there were no apparent security checks.
According to Ali Tehfe, the city’s mayor, Matar was the son of a man from Yaroun in southern Lebanon. Matar’s parents emigrated to the United States, where he was born and raised, the mayor said, adding that he had no information about their political views.
Tehfe told Reuters on Sunday that Matar’s father returned to Lebanon several years ago and after word of Rushdie’s wounding spread, he locked himself in his home in Yaroun and refused to speak to anyone.
The Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group has significant influence in Yaroun, where posters depicting Khomeini and slain IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani, who was killed by a US drone strike in 2020, adorned the walls over the weekend.
(Reporting by Nathan Lane.)