A man suspected of stabbing novelist Salman Rushdie last week in western New York will be indicted by a grand jury on Thursday during a hearing, his defense attorney said.
Hadi Matar, 24, is accused of injuring Rushdie, 75, last Friday, just before the author of “The Satanic Verses” gave a lecture onstage at an educational retreat near Lake Erie.
The suspect is expected to appear in court at 1 pm (local time), Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt’s office said in an email.
Matar’s defense attorney, Nathaniel Barone, told Reuters that a grand jury indicted his client on one count of second-degree attempted murder and one count of second-degree assault.
Schmidt’s office said the jury returned an indictment Thursday morning, but did not provide additional details.
The suspect appeared in a county courthouse on Saturday and pleaded not guilty to one count of attempted second-degree murder and an additional charge of second-degree assault following a criminal complaint filed by prosecutors.
He was held without bail.
The attack comes 33 years after Iran’s then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, urging Muslims to assassinate Rushdie in the year after “The Satanic Verses” was published.
Since then, the Indian writer has lived with a bounty on his head for the book, which some Muslims say contains blasphemous passages about Islam.
In 1998, the pro-reform government of President Mohammad Khatami of Iran distanced itself from the fatwa, saying the threat against Rushdie – who had lived in hiding for nine years – was over. But in 2019, Twitter suspended the account of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over a tweet that said the fatwa against Rushdie was “irrevocable”.
Political leaders, including in the United States and Britain, called last week’s attack an attack on freedom of expression.
In an interview published by the New York Post on Wednesday, Matar said he respected Khomeini but did not say whether he was inspired by the fatwa. He said he “read a few pages” of “The Satanic Verses” and watched the author’s YouTube videos.
“I don’t like him very much,” Matar said of Rushdie, as reported in the Post. “He is someone who attacked Islam, he attacked your beliefs, the belief systems.”
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday that Tehran should not be accused of being involved in the attack. Matar is believed to have acted alone and the motive was not known, police said.
His defense attorney, Nathaniel Barone, said he was left in the dark about the Post interview and did not authorize any conversations with outside sources.
Matar, who is of Lebanese descent, is an American Shia Muslim who was born in California.
Prosecutors say he took a bus to the Chautauqua Institution, a retreat about 12 miles from Lake Erie, where he bought a pass to Rushdie’s lecture, according to the New York Times.
Witnesses said there were no obvious security checks at the lecture venue and that Matar did not speak when he attacked the author. He was arrested at the scene by a state trooper after being thrown to the ground by members of the audience.
Rushdie suffered serious injuries in the attack, including damage to nerves in his arm, liver injuries and the likely loss of an eye, his agent said.
Source: CNN Brasil