Judge denies bail for Salman Rushdie attacker, bans interviews

A judge on Thursday refused to grant bail to the man accused of trying to kill Salman Rushdie as the acclaimed author prepared to give a talk in western New York.

Hadi Matar, 24, appeared in a western New York courtroom after a grand jury indicted him for rushing the Chautauqua institution scene and stabbed Rushdie multiple times in front of a horrified crowd.

Dressed in a black and white prison uniform, Matar remained silent during the hearing as his lawyer tried unsuccessfully to persuade the judge that he should be released pending trial. Public defender Nathaniel Barone said Matar had no criminal record and would not flee the country if released.

APTOPIX Assault by Salman Rushdie
Defense attorney Nathaniel Barone, left, and Hadi Matar, 24, right, listen during an arraignment at the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, NY on Thursday, August 18, 2022.

Joshua Bessex/AP

Barone also asked the judge to do something to stop reporters from trying to contact Matar at the Chautauqua County Jail. The lawyer said the prison had received “several hundred phone calls” from people trying to reach Matar.

Part of this media awareness led Matar to give a brief interview to the New York Post, in which he spoke of disliking Rushdie and praising Iran’s late supreme leader, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Khomeini issued an edict in 1989 demanding Rushdie’s death for his novel “The Satanic Verses”, which some Muslims consider blasphemous. A semi-official Iranian foundation posted a bounty of more than $3 million.

Salman Rushdie
Author Salman Rushdie at the Frankfurt Book Fair on October 12, 2017 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images

Matar’s attorney complained that the media coverage could potentially lead to a biased jury.

“He has a right to a fair trial. He has a right to due process no matter what he is charged with,” Barone said.

Judge David Foley denied the request, but ordered the lawyers involved in the case not to grant interviews.

“Don’t talk to the press until we resolve this issue,” Judge said.

Upfront costs were filed the following day, when Matar’s public defender pleaded not guilty on his behalf. The prosecutor’s office did not immediately release the new charges.

Salman Rushdie: The 60 Minute Interview (1990)


Rushdie, 75, is get treatment in a Pennsylvania hospital for serious injuries. His literary agent, Andrew Wylie, said Rushdie had a damaged liver and severed nerves in one arm, and could lose an eye.

Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt called the attack “pre-planned.”

The author had just taken the stage at the normally quiet lakeside retreat for a discussion about the protection of exiled writers and freedom of expression when Matar jumped on stage.

Henry Reese, 73, co-founder of Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum, was on stage with Rushdie and suffered a gash to his forehead, bruising and other minor injuries.

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