Rushdie calls for reprisals on Iran: Shooting of Norwegian publisher linked to Satanic Verses

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SALMAN RUSHDIE called last night for the West to 'make Iran squeal with pain' after his Norwegian publisher, one of the main champions of the author's cause, was shot and seriously wounded outside his home in Oslo.

Mr Rushdie told the Independent that whether or not Iran was directly responsible for the murder attempt, 'it is time to cast Iran into the outer darkness. The fatwa is the assailant.'

Describing the publisher, William Nygaard, as 'one of my oldest and dearest friends,' he added: 'It is time we stopped this pussy-footing around. I think there should be an immediate breach of relations by all Western countries, a credit freeze, and economic sanctions against Iran. I think the West should think seriously about bringing Iran as a criminal state before the World Court, and suspend its membership of the UN.'

Mr Nygaard - one of the first to publish a translation of The Satanic Verses and a key player in winning Mr Rushdie his first ministerial reception since Ayatollah Khomeini issued the fatwa against the author in 1989 - was in a serious but stable condition after being shot in the back and stomach as he left for work yesterday morning. The bullets missed his spine.

Norwegian police tightened security at airports, borders, railway stations and ports and alerted Interpol on the suspicion that the attack was carried out by Iranian agents. They admitted they had no eyewitness descriptions.

The shooting is seen as retaliation for the high profile which Mr Nygaard and the Norwegian government have helped Mr Rushdie to achieve. It is the third attack on literary figures involved in publishing the author, but the first in more than two years, since he began widely publicised travels abroad.

Mr Nygaard, 50, is an obvious target: he is the head of Aschehoug, Norway's second biggest publishing house, which also publishes Toni Morrison, awarded this year's Nobel literature prize. He was also one of Norway's top ski-jumpers. The shooting came as Norway feared retaliation for its key role in achieving a Middle East peace settlement last month - a deal vociferously rejected by Iran. It also took place in the week of the Frankfurt Book Fair. More importantly, Norway is one of Mr Rushdie's most visible champions: last year in Oslo, he met two ministers who assured him of their support. Ten days ago, the chairman of the Norwegian Rushdie support committee, Sigmund Stromme, was seen with the author at a reception in London given by Index on Censorship. Also a leading publisher, Mr Stromme appeared stricken by the news. He said that 'everything was so open' about Mr Nygaard's position as Mr Rushdie's publisher, unlike some in other countries who have shrouded their role in secrecy.

On 3 July 1991 Mr Rushdie's Italian translator, Ettore Capriolo, was stabbed and wounded in Milan by a hit squad demanding Mr Rushdie's address. Eight days later his Japanese translator, Hitoshi Igarashi, was stabbed to death in Tokyo. The culprits have not been found.

A senior British diplomat expressed the hope yesterday that the perpetrators would be caught this time, to pin down the Iranians.

Although his travels abroad have provoked a hardening of the Iranian stance, Mr Rushdie said the attack would not deter him from further trips. 'I've gone a long way beyond the point where I give a damn what the Iranian government thinks,' he declared. 'I will fight that fight. Otherwise, they will assume we don't care about the attempted murder of people like William Nygaard. Iran is the monster of the civilised world. How many more people have to get hurt?' Mr Rushdie has also visited the US, Denmark, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Canada, Ireland and France.

A Norwegian diplomat and close friend of Mr Nygaard said 'all speculation is in the direction of a link with Iran'. He said the publisher had 'really stood on the barricades' since he declared when publishing The Satanic Verses in 1989 that 'we do not bow to foreign pressure and we are doing this in the name of freedom of expression'.

The late Ayatollah Khomeini imposed it on 14 February 1989 after widespread Muslim protests on the grounds that the novel was blasphemous.

Iran's violent ways, page 14