Salman Rushdie attack suspect pleads not guilty

ANGELA WEISS / AFP

A man accused of stabbing novelist Salman Rushdie last week in western New York pleaded not guilty to second-degree attempted murder and assault charges in court on Thursday.

Hadi Matar, 24, was remanded without bail.

He is accused of wounding Rushdie, 75, on Friday just before the author was to deliver a lecture on stage at an educational retreat near Lake Erie.

Rushdie was hospitalised with serious injuries in what writers and politicians around the world decried as an attack on the freedom of expression.

Matar was arraigned at the Chautauqua County Courthouse on an indictment returned earlier in the day by a grand jury that charged him with one count of second-degree attempted murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, and one count of second-degree assault.

He has been in jail since his arrest and wore a gray-striped jumpsuit, a white COVID-19 face mask and his hands were shackled.

His next court appearance was scheduled for September 22.

Rushdie, who was born in India, has lived with a multimillion-dollar bounty on his head, and spent nine years in hiding under British police protection.

Matar is believed to have acted alone, police have said. Prosecutors say he travelled to Chautauqua Institution, a retreat about 12 miles (19 km) from Lake Erie, where he bought a pass to Rushdie's lecture.

Witnesses said there were no obvious security checks at the lecture venue and that Matar did not speak as he attacked the author.

He was arrested at the scene by a New York State Police trooper after being wrestled to the ground by audience members.

Rushdie sustained severe injuries in the attack, including nerve damage in his arm, wounds to his liver, and the likely loss of an eye, his agent said.

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