Author Salman Rushdie, who was attacked during a literary event in New York, was taken off ventilator on Saturday and has started to talk, said his agent Andrew Wylie, The Associated Press reported.
“He’s off the ventilator, so the road to recovery has begun,” Wylie said, reported the BBC. “It will be long; the injuries are severe, but his condition is headed in the right direction.”
The author was stabbed in the neck and abdomen at an event in New York’s Chautauqua Institution on Friday. The writer’s liver and nerves in an arm were damaged, Wylie said. Rushdie will likely lose an eye, he added.
Rushdie’s attacker was identified as 24-year-old Hadi Matar of New Jersey and was arrested at the scene. Officials have not yet been able to determine a motive for the attack.
Rushdie has faced several death threats since his novel The Satanic Verses was published in 1988, as many Muslims consider it to be blasphemous. In 1989, Iran’s late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had issued a religious edict known as a fatwa, asking Muslims to kill Rushdie.
The Booker Prize-winning author was placed under police protection by the United Kingdom government for many years, and he was subjected to numerous threats of assassination. His book’s Japanese translator was killed in July 1991. A few months later, an Italian translator was also stabbed and the book’s Norwegian publisher was shot.
On Saturday, Matar appeared before a courthouse in the Chautauqua County of New York’s Mayville, where he was charged with second-degree attempted murder and assault, Reuters reported.
He pleaded not guilty before the court and was remanded to custody without bail, the BBC reported. Matar will again appear before the court on August 19.
Matar faces a maximum sentence of up to seven years for second-degree assault, whereas for murder, imprisonment can last 25 years.
During the hearing, prosecutors said that the attack on Rusdhie was premeditated and that the author was stabbed nearly ten times, according to The New York Times.
“Matar took steps to purposely put himself in position to harm Rushdie, getting an advance pass to the event where the author was speaking and arriving a day early bearing a fake ID,” District Attorney Jason Schmidt said, according to The Associated Press. “This was a targeted, unprovoked, preplanned attack on Rushdie.”
International leaders express shock
United States President Joe Biden said that he and first lady Jill Biden were shocked and saddened by the attack on the author.
“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,” Biden said in a statement. “Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear. These are the building blocks of any free and open society.”
António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, said that he was appalled by the attack on Rushdie, who he described as a symbol of freedom of expression in the face of repression.
“In no case is violence a response to words spoken or written by others in their exercise of the freedoms of opinion and expression,” the United Nations chief said in a statement.
Author Ian McEwan said that Rushdie is an inspirational defender of persecuted writers and journalists across the world,” The Guardian reported.