Trial of Salman Rushdie’s alleged attacker faces potential delay over author’s memoir

Salman Rushdie was stabbed around 12 times at the Chautauqua Institution after a man rushed on stage

Martha McHardy
Wednesday 03 January 2024 14:34 GMT
Moment Salman Rushdie's attacker apprehended on stage

The man accused of attacking Salman Rushdie is facing a potential delay to his trial due to the author’s plans to publish a book about the attempt on his life.

Hadi Matar, the man charged with repeatedly stabbing Mr Rushdie on stage in New York in 2022, is entitled to the manuscript and related material from the book as part of his trial preparation, Chautauqua County Judge David Foley ruled in a pretrial conference.

The decision means the trial, which was due to begin on 8 January, may now be delayed until Mr Matar and his attorney receive a copy of the book’s manuscript – either in advance from the publisher or once the book has been publicly released in April.

The judge gave Mr Matar and his attorney until Wednesday to decide if they want to go ahead with the delay.

Defence attorney Nathaniel Barone said he favoured the delay but would consult with Mr Matar.

“It’s not just the book,” Mr Barone said after court.

“Every little note Rushdie wrote down, I get, I’m entitled to. Every discussion, every recording, anything he did in regard to this book.”

The trial of the man accused of attacking Salman Rushdie may be delayed
The trial of the man accused of attacking Salman Rushdie may be delayed (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Representatives for Mr Rushdie, 75, previously denied a request from prosecutors to obtain for a copy of the manuscript, citing intellectual property rights, district attorney Jason Schmidt said.

However, Mr Schmidt downplayed the relevance of the book at the upcoming trial – pointing out that the attack was well-chronicled as it was witnessed by a large, live audience.

“There were recordings of it,” he said.

Mr Rushdie, who was left blinded in his right eye and with a damaged left hand following the 2022 attack, announced in October that he had written about the attack in an upcoming book: Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder.

Speaking about the memoir at the time, he said it was “a necessary book for me to write: a way to take charge of what happened, and to answer violence with art”.

Trial preparations were reportedly already under way when the defence and prosecution learned about the book.

The attack on Mr Rushdie came after he had spent years in hiding following the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses.

Hadi Matar, the man charged with repeatedly stabbing Salman Rushdie
Hadi Matar, the man charged with repeatedly stabbing Salman Rushdie (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

After the book’s release, Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a 1989 edict, a fatwa, calling for his death and condemning the book as blasphemous due to its passages referring to the Prophet Muhammad.

Since then, Mr Rushdie has received death threats and has been the target of several other failed assassination attempts.

The motive for the 2022 attack remains unknown, however Mr Matar previously toldThe New York Post in a jailhouse interview that Mr Rushdie had “attacked Islam”.

Mr Matar was charged with attempted murder and pleaded not guilty. He is being held in jail without bond.

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