The family of the 75-year-old author, who has been under threat for his writings for decades, said he was in critical condition on Sunday after the attack on stage, which ended with the attacker being held by staff and guests and Rushdie. is flown to a hospital.
“While his life-changing injuries are serious, his usual spirited and defiant sense of humor remains intact,” his son Zafar Rushdie said in a statement on Sunday.
Rushdie was taken off a ventilator last weekend but was still being treated for injuries, including three stab wounds to his neck, four stab wounds to his stomach, stab wounds to his right eye and chest, and a laceration to his right thigh, Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt said Saturday, adding that the author may eventually lose his right eye.
The suspect, identified as 24-year-old Hadi Matar, of Fairview, New Jersey, was arrested by a state agent after the attack and taken into custody.
Authorities are now investigating what prompted the stabbing, which prompted the state to bolster police in Chautauqua, said New York State Police Chief Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen.
What we know about the “targeted, pre-planned” attack
Rushdie was suggested to give a lecture at the Chautauqua Institute on Friday when a man leapt onto the stage and stabbed the author in several places in front of a stunned audience.
Staff and guests then rushed onto the stage and detained the attacker before a state trooper assigned to the event took him into custody, according to New York State Police.
Also injured in the attack was Ralph Henry Reese, another speaker at the event who suffered a minor head injury.
“It was very hard to understand. It looked like some kind of bad joke, and it didn’t have any sense of reality,” Ralph Henry Reese told CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” “And when there was blood behind him, it got real.”
A witness, Joyce Lussier, was sitting in the second row when she saw the attack take place. She heard people screaming and crying, she told CNN, and saw people from the audience running onto the stage.
The suspect, Matar, had arrived in Chautauqua at least a day before the event and had bought a ticket to the event two days earlier, authorities said.
Schmidt called the stabbing a “targeted, pre-planned, unprovoked attack on Mr Rushdie,” said Matar, who traveled to Chautauqua by bus with cash, prepaid Visa cards and false identification.
The charges against Matar indicated that a knife was used in the stabbing.
It is still unclear how the suspect entered the event armed with a knife. However, a witness told CNN that there were no security screenings or metal detectors during the event. The witness has not been identified as they were concerned for their personal safety.
Institution president Michael Hill defended his organization’s security plans when asked at a news conference on Friday whether more precautions would be taken at future events.
“We review for each event what we think is the right level of security, and this was definitely one that we thought was important, which is why we had a State Trooper and Sheriff there,” Hill said.
On Sunday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul met with stage crews from the Chautauqua Institute and police who helped subdue Rushdie’s alleged attacker and called them heroes.
“The team that was here and the paramedics, the firefighters and those who showed up and literally kept the man alive while they were transporting him have done an extraordinary job,” the governor said.
Suspect pleads innocent, described as ‘silent’ New Jersey man
Matar — who authorities say has no documented criminal history — pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree attempted murder and second-degree assault with intent to cause bodily harm with a deadly weapon, his public defender, Nathaniel Barone, told CNN on Saturday. .
The lawyer said Matar has been “very cooperative” and communicated openly, but he did not discuss what was said during those talks.
He faces up to 32 years if convicted on both charges, Schmidt said.
Matar was described as a quiet person who mostly kept to himself.
The suspect had registered with the State of Fitness Boxing Club in North Bergen, New Jersey, in April, gym owner Desmond Boyle told CNN.
“You know that look, that look of ‘it’s the worst day of your life’? He came in like this every day,” Boyle told CNN on Saturday.
A gym member, Roberto Irizarry, told CNN that Matar went to the gym about three or four times a week and was “a very calm kid.”
“It’s a brotherly environment, a family environment — we try to get everyone involved. He was basically for himself,” Irizarry said.
Rushdie gets a surge of support as he embarks on ‘road to recovery’
The attack on the prominent author sparked an outpouring of support from leaders around the world.
US President Joe Biden said in a statement that he was saddened by the attack.
Salman Rushdie – with his insight into humanity, with his unparalleled sense of story, with his refusal to be intimidated or silenced – stands for essential, universal ideals. Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to act without fear. ideas. These are the building blocks of any free and open society,” Biden said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a tweet that he was “shocked” by the attack on Rushdie, who is also a British citizen.
“I am shocked that Sir Salman Rushdie was stabbed while exercising a right that we should never cease to defend. At the moment my thoughts are with his loved ones. We all hope he is okay,” Johnson said on Friday.
Rushdie’s ex-wife, TV presenter Padma Lakshmi, tweeted on Sunday that she was “relieved” that Rushdie was “coming through after Friday’s nightmare”.
“Worried and wordless, can finally exhale. Now hoping for a speedy recovery,” she said.
Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, said in a statement:
“PEN America is shocked and horrified at the word of a brutal, premeditated attack on our former president and staunch ally, Salman Rushdie, who was reportedly stabbed multiple times while speaking onstage at the Chautauqua Institute in the United States. state of New York,” said Nossel. said. “We cannot think of a comparable incident of a public attack on a literary writer on American soil.”
“Salman Rushdie has been the target of his words for decades, but he never backed down,” Nossel added. “He has put tireless energy into helping others who are vulnerable and threatened.”
Rushdie’s writings have earned him several literary awards, as well as criticism. His fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, was condemned by some Muslims who found the book sacrilegious.
The late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who described the book as an affront to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, issued a religious decree or fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989.
As a result, Rushdie began a decade under British protection.
While the motive behind Friday’s stabbing is still under investigation, the New York governor condemned the attack.
“I don’t want a man with a knife to silence a man with a pen,” Hochul said.
Artemis Moshtaghian, Liam Reilly, Samantha Beech, Keith Allen and Brian Stelter of CNN contributed to this report.