Indian-born British-American novelist Salman Rushdie.
Indian-born British-American novelist Salman Rushdie.

Trial postponed for man charged in 2022 stabbing of author Salman Rushdie due to forthcoming memoir

Rushdie, 75, was blinded in his right eye and his left hand was damaged in the attack.

MAYVILLE: The New Jersey man charged with stabbing “The Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie is allowed to seek material related to Rushdie's upcoming memoir about the attack before standing trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Jury selection in Hadi Matar's attempted murder and assault trial was originally scheduled to start Jan. 8.

Instead, the trial is on hold, since Matar's lawyer argued Tuesday that the defendant is entitled by law to see the manuscript, due out in April 2024, and related material before standing trial. Written or recorded statements about the attack made by any witness are considered potential evidence, attorneys said.

“It will not change the ultimate outcome,” Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt said of the postponement. A new date has not yet been set.

Matar, 26, who lived in Fairview, New Jersey, has been held without bail since prosecutors said he stabbed Rushdie more than a dozen times after rushing the stage at the Chautauqua Institution where the author was about to speak in August 2022.

Rushdie, 75, was blinded in his right eye and his left hand was damaged in the attack. The author announced in Oct. 2023 that he had written about the attack in a forthcoming memoir: “Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder."

With trial preparations underway at the time, the prosecutor said he requested a copy of the manuscript as part of the legal discovery process. The request, he said, was declined by Rushdie's representatives, who cited intellectual property rights.

Defence attorney Nathaniel Barone is expected to subpoena the material.

Rushdie's literary agent did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. Penguin Random House, the book's publisher, also didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

The prosecution on Tuesday downplayed the book's significance to the trial, noting the attack was witnessed — and in some cases recorded — by a large, live audience.

Onstage with Rushdie at the western New York venue was Henry Reese — 73, the co-founder of Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum — who suffered a gash to his forehead.

Rushdie, who could testify at the trial, spent years in hiding after the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a 1989 edict, a fatwa, calling for his death after the publication of the novel “The Satanic Verses,” which some Muslims consider blasphemous. Over the past two decades, Rushdie has travelled freely.

A motive for the 2022 attack has not been disclosed. Matar, in a jailhouse interview with The New York Post after his arrest, praised Khomeini and said Rushdie “attacked Islam.”

The New Indian Express