CHICAGO: The literary agent for Salman Rushdie — attacked by a pro-Iran activist at an event in New York state on Friday — said that the author had been taken off his ventilator, was able to talk and had been making jokes.
Hadi Matar, 24, arrested for the attack, was charged but denied bail as prosecutors argued that he had international support for his actions.
Rushdie’s literary agent, Andrew Wylie, told media on Sunday that the author, the subject of a death fatwa issued by the late Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini 33 years ago, remained hospitalized due to serious injuries.
Wylie had previously described Rushdie’s condition as bleak, noting that the author was in a “critical condition,” that he was “likely to lose an eye,” and had suffered damage to his arm and his liver.
The news about the improved condition of Rushdie, 75, however, encouraged hope and tempered the attack as a failed attempt by the extremist Iran regime, accused of fostering terrorism around the world.
The attacker, Hadi Matar, 24, pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder in the second degree and assault in the second degree. He was arraigned on Saturday night at Chautauqua County Jail in New York.
Bail for Matar was denied with prosecutor’s arguing that Matar had international support and could easily flee the country.
Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt told Judge Marilyn Gerace that the fatwa issued by Iran in 1989 “plays an important role for bail consideration because his resources don’t matter to me . . . the agenda that was carried out yesterday is something that’s adopted and sanctioned by larger groups and organizations well beyond jurisdictional borders of Chautauqua County . . . Even if this court sets a million-dollar bail, we stand a risk that this bail could be met because of that.”
Matar, who is from Fairview, New Jersey, is scheduled to appear again in court on Friday. He is being represented by a New York public defender assigned to represent him by the court.
Calls for a crackdown on Iranian terrorism and violence escalated as police continued to investigate Matar’s motives and possible ties to supporters of Iran’s regime.
Matar’s Facebook page and social media included photos of Khomeini and other Iran regime leaders.
“The stabbing of Salman Rushdie was not a spontaneous act,” said Ali Safavi, a member of the foreign affairs committee of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, who strongly condemned the attack. “Over 30 years ago, Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of Iran’s ruling theocracy, issued a fatwa to murder him. His successor Ali Khamenei confirmed it and state institutions set a $3.5 million reward. Lesson to be learned is that appeasement backfires and emboldens terrorism.”
Former US president, Bill Clinton, wrote on Twitter: “Salman Rushdie has lived his life courageously and refused to let intimidation silence him, his art, and what he stands for. I am keeping him in my thoughts and praying for his recovery.”
Clinton’s post drew criticism from some writers, who accused the former president of turning a blind eye to violence against Muslims and Palestinians, but stopped short of praising Matar.
Hillary Clinton, former US secretary of state, tweeted: “I’m horrified by the cowardly attack on Salman Rushdie and praying for his speedy recovery. As he once wrote: ‘A poet’s work (is) to name the unnamable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it from going to sleep’.”
Chautauqua County Executive P.J. Wendel issued a statement offering thoughts and prayers for Rushdie’s recovery.
“The small tranquil community of the Chautauqua Institution has been shaken to its core by an act of violence, which has reverberated across Chautauqua County and western New York. It is disappointing that we live in a society where we cannot listen to the differences of others, especially in a place like the institution where thinkers and problem-solvers from around the world come to share their stories,” Wendel said.
“I thank all of the emergency and law enforcement agencies who have done a tremendous job in responding to this horrific event. It is through their quick response that they were able to mitigate the situation and capture the alleged assailant.”
Author Stephen King posted on Twitter that the attack had depressed him: “I’m trying to cheer myself up this afternoon. What happened to Salman Rushdie preys on my mind.”
US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken denounced as “despicable” the role played by Iranian state institutions for having “incited violence against Rushdie for generations”, adding that Iran’s state-affiliated media “recently gloated about the attempt on his life.”
“We join those across the country and around the world who are keeping Salman Rushdie in our thoughts in the aftermath of this heinous attack. More than a literary giant, Rushdie has consistently stood up for the universal rights of freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, and freedom of the press. While law enforcement officials continue to investigate the attack, I am reminded of the pernicious forces that seek to undermine these rights, including through hate speech and incitement to violence” he said.
“The United States and partners will not waver in our determination to stand up to these threats, using every appropriate tool at our disposal. The strength of Rushdie — and that of all of those around the world who have endured such threats — steels our resolve and underscores the imperative of standing united as an international community against those who would challenge these universal rights,” he added.
Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn, a strong critic of President Joe Biden, turned the debate to politics, attacking Biden’s efforts to reach an accord with Iran on nuclear weapons.
“Iran has been plotting for the death of Salman Rushdie since 1989 and offered a bounty to anyone who assassinates him. Yesterday, he was attacked on stage. Meanwhile, the Biden administration is open to having additional talks with this dangerous, terrorist regime,” Blackburn wrote on Twitter.
Rushdie was about to address the Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit education center and summer resort near Buffalo, New York, when he was attacked. Rushdie was planning to speak about America being a place of “asylum for writers and other artists in exile.”
Police said that Matar had a pass to attend the presentation at the gated institution community but that passes were available to anyone.