Police in the US have charged a man over the stabbing of author Salman Rushdie, who is being treated for serious injuries in hospital after being attacked on stage during a literary event in New York state on Friday.
The Booker Prize-winning author, who has lived under a death threat from Iran for several decades, is able to speak, according to his friends. On Saturday evening, author Aatish Taseer tweeted that Rushdie, 75, was “off the ventilator and talking”. This was confirmed by Rushdie’s agent Andrew Wylie, according to the Associated Press.
Police said Rushdie had suffered a stab wound to the neck and was flown to hospital by helicopter where he underwent surgery. In a statement to Reuters on Friday, Wylie said that Rushdie “will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged”.
Police identified the suspect in the attack as Hadi Matar, 24, from Fairview, New Jersey. New York state police major Eugene Staniszewski said there was no indication yet on a possible motive for the attack.
State police said on Saturday that Matar had been charged with attempted murder and assault. Matar’s court-appointed lawyer told Reuters he pleaded not guilty.
Rushdie was scheduled to speak at the Chautauqua Institution, south-west of the city of Buffalo in western New York state, on Friday.
“At about 11am, a male suspect ran up on to the stage and attacked Rushdie and an interviewer,” New York state police said.
US president Joe Biden on Saturday expressed his shock and sadness over the attack on Rushdie. “All Americans and people around the world are praying for his health and recovery.”
Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses, first published in 1988, generated controversy for how it depicted the Islamic prophet Mohammed. The book was banned in Iran and, in 1989, the supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie.
Following the death threat, Rushdie went into hiding. He lived with armed guards and adopted the alias Joseph Anton.
Additional reporting by Reuters