Judge denies bail for man accused of attacking Sir Salman Rushdie

A judge has refused to grant bail to the man accused of trying to kill Sir 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 yesterday after a grand jury indicted him on charges that he rushed the stage at the Chautauqua Institution and stabbed Sir Salman multiple times in front of a horrified crowd.

Dressed in a black and white jail uniform, Matar stayed quiet during the hearing while his lawyer unsuccessfully tried to persuade the judge that he should be released while he awaited trial.

Public defender Nathaniel Barone said Matar had no criminal record and would not flee the country if released.

Hadi Matar, 24, center, arrives for an arraignment in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, NY. Picture: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Mr 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 jail had received “several hundred phone calls” from people trying to reach Matar.

Some of that media outreach resulted in Matar giving a brief interview to The New York Post, in which he talked about disliking Sir Salman and praised Iran’s late supreme leader, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

The Ayatollah issued an edict in 1989 demanding Sir Salman’s death over his novel The Satanic Verses, which some Muslims consider blasphemous.

British novelist and essayist Salman Rushdie poses during a photo session in Paris. Picture: Joel Sage/AFP via Getty Images

A semi-official Iranian foundation had posted a bounty of more than three million dollars.

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

“He’s entitled to a fair trial. He’s entitled to due process, no matter what he’s accused of,” Mr Barone said.

Judge David Foley declined that request, but he ordered the lawyers involved in the case not to give interviews.

“No speaking to the press until we have resolved this issue,” the judge said.

Sir Salman, 75, is receiving treatment in a Pennsylvania hospital for severe wounds. His literary agent, Andrew Wylie, has said Sir Salman had a damaged liver and severed nerves in an 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 tranquil lakeside retreat for a discussion of protections for writers in exile and freedom of expression when Matar allegedly jumped onstage.

Henry Reese, 73, the cofounder of Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum, was onstage with Sir Salman and suffered a gash to his forehead, bruising and other minor injuries.

Matar, who lived in Fairview, New Jersey, with his mother, is charged with attempted murder and assault.

He could be jailed for decades in prison if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

First published in September 1988, The Satanic Verses was inspired by the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

As with his previous books, Rushdie used magical realism and relied on contemporary events and people to create his characters.