Agent: Rushdie Off Ventilator And Talks, Day After Attack



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The satanic verses Author Salman Rushdie was taken off a ventilator and able to speak on Saturday, a day after he was stabbed while preparing to give a talk in upstate New York.

Rushdie remained hospitalized with serious injuries, but fellow author Aatish Taseer tweeted in the evening that he was « off the ventilator and talking (and joking). » Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, confirmed this information without giving further details.

Earlier in the day, the man accused of assaulting him Friday at Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit education and retirement center, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault in what a prosecutor called a « preplanned » crime.

READ MORE: Salman Rushdie, stabbing suspect arrested for attempted murder, pleads not guilty

A lawyer for Hadi Matar argued on his behalf at an arraignment in western New York. The suspect appeared in court wearing a black and white jumpsuit and white face mask with his hands cuffed in front of him.

A judge ordered her held without bail after District Attorney Jason Schmidt told her that Matar, 24, took steps to deliberately put himself in a position to harm Rushdie, getting an early pass for the event where the author was speaking and arriving a day earlier wearing a fake ID.

« This was a targeted, unprovoked, pre-planned attack on Mr. Rushdie, » Schmidt said.

Public defender Nathaniel Barone complained that authorities took too long to bring Matar before a judge while leaving him « hanging from a bench in the state police barracks ».

« He has this constitutional right to the presumption of innocence, » Barone added.

Rushdie, 75, suffered liver damage and severed nerves in an arm and eye, Wylie said Friday night. He was in danger of losing the injured eye.

The attack has prompted shock and outrage from much of the world, as well as tributes and praise for the award-winning author who for more than 30 years has faced death threats for satanic verses.

Authors, activists and government officials have cited Rushdie’s courage and longstanding defense of free speech despite risks to his own safety. Writer and longtime friend Ian McEwan called Rushdie « an inspirational advocate for persecuted writers and journalists around the world », and actor-author Kal Penn cited him as a role model « for a whole generation of artists, especially for many of us in the South Asian diaspora, towards whom he showed incredible warmth.

President Joe Biden said in a statement on Saturday that he and first lady Jill Biden were « shocked and saddened » by the attack.

READ MORE: Bill Maher slams ‘dangerous’ religious fundamentalism behind attack on Salman Rushdie: ‘Don’t come at me with Islamophobes’

« Salman Rushdie – with his insight into humanity, with his unrivaled sense of history, with his refusal to be bullied or silenced – represents essential and universal ideals, » the statement read. “Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear. These are the building blocks of any free and open society.

Rushdie, originally from India who has since lived in Britain and the United States, is known for his surreal and satirical style of prose, beginning with his Booker Prize-winning novel in 1981. midnight childrenin which he sharply criticized the Indian Prime Minister at the time, Indira Gandhi.

satanic verses drew death threats after it was published in 1988, with many Muslims considering a dream sequence based on the life of the Prophet Muhammad to be blasphemy, among other objections. Rushdie’s book had already been banned and burned in India, Pakistan and elsewhere before Iranian Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989.

Khomeini died the same year, but the fatwa remains in effect. Iran’s current supreme leader, Khamenei, has never issued a fatwa himself to revoke the edict, although Iran in recent years has not focused on the writer.

Investigators were trying to determine if the suspect, born a decade later satanic verses was published, acted alone.

District Attorney Schmidt alluded to the fatwa as a potential ground for opposing bail.

“Even if this court were to set a bond of $1 million, we run the risk that the bond could be met,” Schmidt said.

“His resources don’t matter to me. We understand that the program that was executed yesterday is something that has been embraced and sanctioned by larger groups and organizations far beyond the jurisdictional boundaries of Chautauqua County,” the prosecutor said.

READ MORE: Author Salman Rushdie attacked ahead of lecture on New York stage

Barone, the public defender, said after the hearing that Matar was communicating openly with him and that he would spend the next few weeks trying to find out more about his client, including whether he had any psychological issues or addictions.

Matar is from Fairview, New Jersey. Rosaria Calabrese, director of the State of Fitness Boxing Club, a small gym near North Bergen, said Matar joined on April 11 and participated in about 27 group sessions for beginners looking to improve their fitness before emailed him several days ago to say he wanted to cancel his membership because « he won’t be back for a while ».

Gym owner Desmond Boyle said he saw « nothing violent » about Matar, describing him as polite and calm, but someone who always looked « extremely sad ». He said Matar resisted attempts by him and others to take him in and hire him.

« He had that look every time he walked in. It looked like it was the worst day of his life, » Boyle said.

Matar was born in the United States to parents who emigrated from Yaroun in southern Lebanon, village mayor Ali Tehfe said. The Associated Press.

Flags of the Iran-backed Shia militant group Hezbollah can be seen throughout the village, along with portraits of leader Hassan Nasrallah, Khamenei, Khomeini and slain Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

Journalists visiting Yaroun on Saturday have been asked to leave. Hezbollah spokesmen did not respond to requests for comment.


Italy reported from New York. Associated press journalist Kareem Chehayeb contributed to this report from Beirut.

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