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Alleged Salman Rushdie attacker indicted on attempted murder charge

Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images, FILE

(NEW YORK) — The man accused of stabbing author Salman Rushdie on stage at a speaking event in southwestern New York last week, critically injuring him, was indicted by a grand jury on charges including attempted murder.

Hadi Matar, 24, pleaded not guilty to the indictment charging him with second-degree attempted murder and assault charges during an arraignment Thursday afternoon.

The indictment alleges that Matar “attempted to cause the death of Salman Rushdie by stabbing him multiple times with a knife.”

Chautauqua County Court Judge David Foley remanded Matar into custody during his arraignment Thursday afternoon.

There was no comment from either side after the judge imposed a temporary gag order that prevents the attorneys from publicly discussing the facts of the case.

Rushdie, 75, was stabbed multiple times on stage at the Chautauqua Institution on Aug. 12, in what prosecutors said was a “preplanned” attack.

The novelist suffered severe injuries, including a damaged liver, but is on the “road to recovery,” his agent said on Sunday. Rushdie will likely lose one eye as a result of the attack, his agent said.

Event moderator Henry Reese, 73, also suffered a facial injury in the attack and was treated and released from a hospital, police said.

Matar, of Fairview, New Jersey, was arrested at the scene by a New York State Police trooper after audience members held him down, authorities said. He was initially charged with second-degree attempted murder and assault following the attack and pleaded not guilty during an arraignment hearing on Saturday, during which a judge ordered him held without bail.

Authorities have not released a motive for the attack.

Rushdie faced years of death threats after his novel, “The Satanic Verses,” was published in 1988. The late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini accused the author of blasphemy over the book and in 1989 issued a fatwa against Rushdie, calling for his death.

In 1998, the Iranian foreign minister said that the country no longer supported the fatwa against Rushdie, though a $3.3 million bounty for his death continues to be offered by an Iranian religious foundation.

In an interview with the New York Post from Chautauqua County Jail this week, prior to the judge’s gag order, Matar reportedly said he was “surprised” Rushdie survived the attack. He didn’t address the fatwa, but said he had read a “couple pages” of “The Satanic Verses” and praised Khomeini, the Post reported.

Law enforcement officials briefed on the investigation told ABC News that the suspect’s “probable social media presence indicates a likely adherence or sympathy towards Shi’a extremism and sympathies to the Iranian regime/Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”

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