Man, 24, charged with attempted murder following Salman Rushdie stabbing

Hadi Matar was led into court while chained and shackled, as Ben Chapman reports

The suspect in a stabbing attack on Sir Salman Rushdie pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault charges in what a prosecutor called a “preplanned” crime.

Sir Salman, a 75-year-old Indian-born British author has been put on a ventilator following Friday's assault, his agent Andrew Wylie said.

The writer is unable to speak and may lose an eye, Mr Wylie said, adding that the author sustained damage to his liver and to nerves in his arm.

Sir Salman is taken on a stretcher to a helicopter for transport to hospital Credit: AP

The suspect has been named by New York State police as 24-year-old Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey. During an arraignment hearing on Saturday, an attorney entered a 'not guilty' plea on Matar's behalf. Matar appeared in court wearing a black and white jumpsuit and a white face mask.

A judge ordered him held without bail after District Attorney Jason Schmidt told her Matar took steps to purposely put himself in position to harm Sir Salman, getting an advance pass to the event where the author was speaking and arriving a day early bearing a fake ID. “This was a targeted, unprovoked, preplanned attack on Mr. Rushdie,” Mr Schmidt said.

Audience member Stephen Davies filmed the moments after Sir Salman was attacked

Public defender Nathaniel Barone complained that authorities had taken too long to get Matar in front of a judge while leaving him “hooked up to a bench at the state police barracks.” “He has that constitutional right of presumed innocence,” Mr Barone added. Sir Salman, whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was about to deliver a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution when the incident occurred.

The writer was stabbed at least seven times, in the neck and abdomen. Captured in the moments after the stabbing, footage shows audience members and staff rushing onto the stage to assist Sir Salman and pin the suspect down.

Major Eugene Staniszweski of New York State Police said late on Friday: “Earlier today at approximately 10.47am, guest speaker Salman Rushdie, aged 75, and Ralph Henry Reese, age 73, had just arrived on stage at the institution.

Hadi Matar is escorted by the police following the stabbing. Credit: AP

“Shortly thereafter, the suspect jumped on to the stage and attacked Mr Rushdie, stabbing him at least once in the neck and at least once in the abdomen.

“Several members of the staff at the institution and audience members rushed the suspect and took him to the ground, and shortly thereafter, a trooper who was at the institution took the suspect into custody with the assistance of a Chautauqua County Sheriff’s deputy."

Photos from the Associated Press news agency showed Sir Salman lying on his back with his legs in the air and a first responder crouched over him.

Mr Reese, from the City of Asylum organisation, a residency programme for writers living in exile under threat of persecution, suffered a minor head injury.

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On Friday, Sir Salman and Mr Reese were due to discuss America’s role as an asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression.

Officials haven’t said why they think the suspect may have wanted to kill Sir Salman.

Why is Salman Rushdie's writing controversial?

Sir Salman's book, The Satanic Verses, has been banned in Iran since 1988, as many Muslims view it as blasphemous, and its publication prompted Iran’s then-leader Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa calling for his death.

Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini died the same year he issued the fatwa, which remains in effect. Iran’s current supreme leader, Khamenei, never issued a fatwa of his own withdrawing the edict, though Iran in recent years hasn’t focused on the writer. Death threats led Sir Salman to go into hiding under a British government protection program, which included a round-the-clock armed guard. Sir Salman's seclusion lasted for nine years. Just two weeks ago, he told German magazine Stern that his life was now "relatively normal".

A state trooper and a county sheriff’s deputy were assigned to Sir Salman’s lecture, and state police said the trooper made the arrest. But afterward some longtime visitors to the centre questioned why there wasn’t tighter security given the threats against Sir Salman and a bounty of more than $3 million on his head.

Along with a number of writers and other public figures, President Joe Biden expressed his shock at the attack.

“Salman Rushdie - with his insight into humanity, with his unmatched sense for story, with his refusal to be intimidated or silenced - stands for essential, universal ideals,” his statement read.

“Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear. These are the building blocks of any free and open society.”