Judge denies bail for Rushdie’s attacker, bans interviews

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Judge denies bail for Rushdie's attacker, bans interviews
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MAYVILLE, NY — 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 repeatedly stabbing Rushdie in front of a crowd horrified.

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.

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.

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

“He is entitled to a fair trial. He is entitled 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.

“Do not speak to the press until we resolve this issue,” Judge said.

Rushdie, 75, is being treated at 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, bruises and other minor injuries.

Matar, who lived in Fairview, New Jersey, with his mother, is charged with attempted murder and assault. He could face decades in prison if convicted. He pleaded not guilty.

ABC News

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