Salman Rushdie is recovering from ‘life-changing’ injuries after being stabbed on stage. Here’s what we know

The family of the 75-year-old author – who lived under threat for decades because of his writings – said he was in critical condition on Sunday after the onstage attack, which ended with the attacker being held down by staff, guests and Rushdie are flown to a hospital.

“Though his life-changing injuries are severe, his usual lively and defiant sense of humor remains intact,” his son Zafar Rushdie said in a statement Sunday.

Rushdie was taken off a ventilator over the 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 District Attorney Jason Schmidt said Saturday, adding the author could end up losing his right eye.

The suspect, identified as 24-year-old Hadi Matar, from Fairview, New Jersey, was arrested by a state trooper after the attack and taken into custody.

Authorities are now investigating what motivated the stabbing, which prompted the state to increase the police presence in Chautauqua, New York State Police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen said.

What we know about the “targeted, preplanned” attack

Rushdie was being pictured to give a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution on Friday when a man rushed onto the stage and stabbed the author in multiple places in front of a stunned audience.

Staff and guests then rushed onto the stage and restrained the attacker before a state police officer assigned to the event arrested him, according to the 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 difficult to understand. It looked like some kind of bad prank and had no sense of reality,” Ralph Henry Reese told CNN’s Reliable Sources. “And then when there was blood behind him, it became real.”

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A witness, Joyce Lussier, was seated in the second row when she saw the attack unfold. She heard people screaming and crying, she told CNN, and saw people from the audience rushing onto the stage.

Suspect Matar had arrived in Chautauqua at least a day before the event and had bought a pass for the event two days earlier, authorities said.

Calling the stabbing a “deliberate, preplanned, unprovoked attack on Mr. Rushdie,” Schmidt said Matar traveled to Chautauqua by bus with cash, prepaid Visa cards and false ID.

The criminal complaint against Matar indicated that a knife was used in the stabbing.

It remains unclear how the suspect armed with a knife could have entered the event. However, a witness has told CNN that there were no security searches or metal detectors at the event. The witness is not identified as he expressed concerns about his personal safety.

Institution President Michael Hill defended his organization’s safety plans when asked during a news conference Friday whether there would be more precautions at future events.

“We evaluate for each event what we think is the appropriate level of security, and this was certainly one that we felt was important, which is why we had a state trooper and a sheriff there,” Hill said.

On Sunday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul met with the Chautauqua Institute’s stage crew and the police officer who helped subdue Rushdie’s alleged assailant and called them heroes.

“The team that was here on the scene and the paramedics, the firefighters and those who showed up and literally kept the man alive as they transported him did an extraordinary job,” the governor said.

The suspect has pleaded not guilty and is described as a “quiet” New Jersey man

Hadi Matar arrives August 13 for a arraignment at the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, New York.

Matar – who authorities say has no documented criminal history – pleaded not guilty to counts of attempted second-degree murder and second-degree assault with intent to cause physical 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 has not spoken out about what was said during those conversations.

If convicted on both charges, he faces up to 32 years, Schmidt said.

Suspect in attack on Salman Rushdie has pleaded not guilty to attempted second-degree murder and assault, lawyer says

Matar was described as a quiet person who mostly kept to himself.

The suspect had enrolled at the State of Fitness Boxing Club in North Bergen, New Jersey, in April, gym owner Desmond Boyle told CNN.

“You know that look, that ‘It’s the worst day of your life’ look? He came in like that every day,” Boyle told CNN on Saturday.

A gym member, Roberto Irizarry, told CNN that Matar attended the gym about three or four times a week and was “a very quiet kid.”

“It’s a fraternal environment, a family environment – ​​we try to include everyone. He was pretty much on his own,” Irizarry said.

Rushdie receives a flood of support as he begins the “road to recovery.”

The attack on the prominent author sparked a wave of support from world leaders.

US President Joe Biden said in a statement he was saddened by the attack.

“Salman Rushdie – with his insight into humanity, with his unmatched sense of story, with his refusal to be intimidated or silenced – represents fundamental, universal ideals. Truth. Courage. resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear. Those are the building blocks of any free and open society,” Biden said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a tweet he was “appalled” by the attack on Rushdie, who is also a British citizen.

“I am appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie was stabbed while exercising a right we should never stop defending. At the moment my thoughts are with his loved ones. We all hope he’s okay,” Johnson said on Friday.

Rushdie’s former wife, TV presenter Padma Lakshmi, said in a tweet on Sunday that she was “relieved” that Rushdie was “coming through after Friday’s nightmare.”

“Worried and wordless, can finally breathe again. Now I hope for a quick recovery,” she said.

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Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, said in a statement

“PEN America is shocked and appalled by the news of a brutal, premeditated attack on our former President and staunch ally, Salman Rushdie, who was reportedly stabbed multiple times while speaking on stage at the Chautauqua Institute in upstate New York,” Nossel said. “We can think of no comparable incident of a public attack on a literary author on American soil.”

“Salman Rushdie has been targeted for his words for decades but has never flinched or hesitated,” Nossel added. “He has devoted tireless energy to helping others who are vulnerable and threatened.”

Rushdie’s writings have earned him several literary awards, but also scrutiny. His fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, was condemned by some Muslims who felt the book was sacrilegious.

The late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who called the book an insult to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, issued a religious decree or fatwa in 1989 calling for Rushdie’s death.

As a result, Rushdie began a decade under British protection.

In a first official reaction, Iran blamed the author and “his supporters” for the attack on Rushdie.

“Regarding the attack on Salman Rushdie, we’re not considering anyone but [Rushdie] and its supporters are worthy of blame and even condemnation,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said in a television press conference on Monday.

According to Iranian state media, Kanaani also said Iranian officials “categorically and earnestly deny any connection of the attacker with Iran.”

“We have seen nothing about the person who carried out this act other than what we have seen from American media. We categorically and seriously deny any connection of the attacker with Iran,” Kanaani said, according to Iranian state media.

While the motive for Friday’s stabbing is still under investigation, the governor of New York condemned the attack.

“I want it to be out there that a man with a knife can’t silence a man with a pen,” Hochul said.

CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian, Liam Reilly, Samantha Beech, Keith Allen, Adam Pourrahmadi, Alex Stambaugh
and Brian Stelter contributed to this report.

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