The man accused of stabbing author Salman Rushdie in New York last week pleaded not guilty to second-degree attempted murder and assault charges on Thursday, reported The Guardian.
Rushdie was stabbed in the neck and abdomen at an event in New York’s Chautauqua Institution on August 12. The author has faced several death threats for his book The Satanic Verses published in 1988. In 1989, Iran’s late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had issued a religious edict known as a fatwa, asking Muslims to kill Rushdie.
According to Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, the author’s liver and nerves in an arm were damaged in the attack. Rushdie was taken off the ventilator on August 13.
The man accused of stabbing Rushdie, 24-year-old Hadi Matar, was produced before a district court on Thursday.
“His mission to kill Mr Rushdie is greater in his mind and outweighs his personal freedom” said District Attorney Jason Schmidt.
Matar’s lawyer, Nathaniel Barone II, however, asked the court not to keep his client in prison.
“In these situations where emotions run high, feelings run high, it’s important that the criminal justice system is still at its best,” Barone argued. “This is the opportunity for Matar to receive every benefit from our constitution – a presumption of innocence, due process, a fair trial.”
In a video interview from the Chautauqua County Jail, Matar had told The New York Post that he was surprised when he found out that Rushdie had survived the attack. Matar said that he was inspired to go to Chautauqua after he saw a tweet announcing Rushdie’s visit.
“I don’t like the person,” he said. “I don’t think he’s a very good person. I don’t like him...He is someone who attacked Islam, he attacked their beliefs, the belief systems.”
Media reports had said that Matar was sympathetic toward the causes of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is committed to protecting Iran’s Islamic system from hostile foreign powers and internal threats.
When asked if last week’s attack was inspired by the fatwa issued by Khomeini, Matar did not give a direct answer.
“I respect the Ayotallah,” he said. “I think he is a great person. That is as far as I will say about that.”
On Monday, Iran had denied being involved in the attack on Rushdie.
“We, in the incident of the attack on Salman Rushdie in the United States, do not consider that anyone deserves blame and accusations except him and his supporters,” Nasser Kanaani, the spokesman of Iran’s Foreign Ministry said. “Nobody has the right to accuse Iran in this regard.”