(CNN) — Celebrated writer Salman Rushdie remains hospitalized after he was repeatedly stabbed during an attack on stage in western New York that left him at risk of losing an eye, a prosecutor said during court proceedings Saturday.
The 75-year-old award-winning author –whose writings have brought him death threats for decades – was preparing to give a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution on Friday when a man jumped onto the stage and stabbed Rushdie in several places, including the neck and stomach.
Staff members and guests then rushed onto the stage and restrained the suspect, identified as Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, before a state trooper assigned to the event took him into custody, according to New Jersey Police. New York State.
Chautauqua County Prosecutor Jason Schmidt provided the details of Rushdie’s injuries in court during Matar’s appearance Saturday afternoon.
The author’s injuries include three stab wounds to the right side of the front of the neck, four stab wounds to the stomach, a puncture wound to the right eye and chest, and a laceration to the right thigh, according to the county attorney.
Rushdie was airlifted to a hospital after the attack and underwent surgery, according to police. The writer could end up losing his right eye, Schmidt said.
The author began speaking again on Saturday after being put on a ventilator, his agent Andrew Wylie told the New York Timesadding that the attack left Rushdie with liver and nerve damage.
Another of the event’s speakers, Ralph Henry Reese, 73, suffered a minor head injury during the attack. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance and was later released with a facial injury.
The suspect pleaded not guilty
To kill pleaded not guilty on charges of attempted murder without premeditation and assault with intent to cause bodily harm with a deadly weapon, his public defender, Nathaniel Barone, told CNN on Saturday.
The attorney said Matar had been “very cooperative” and openly communicated, but did not discuss what was said during those conversations.
Matar was denied bail and booked into the Chautauqua County Jail. His next court appearance will be on Friday.
He faces a maximum of 32 years if convicted of both counts, Schmidt said.
The FBI is now working with local and international authorities to investigate the attack at the Chautauqua Institution, which occurred in public while Rushdie was being introduced.
One witness, Joyce Lussier, was sitting in the second row when she saw a man jump onto the stage and lunge at Rushdie. She heard people screaming and crying, she told CNN, and saw people from the audience running onto the stage.
Another witness, Stephen Davies, who took video of the moments after Rushdie’s attack, said he couldn’t tell if the attacker had a knife in his hand.
“He lunged at Mr. Rushdie and started hitting him with his hand, very quickly,” Davies said. “He was completely stunned and shocked.”
Authorities have not disclosed the specific type of weapon used in the attack.
The suspect had a pass to the event, which is now facing questions about its security procedures.
The suspect arrived in Chautauqua at least a day before the event and purchased a pass to the event two days before, Schmidt said during Matar’s appearance.
Matar traveled to Chautauqua by bus and was carrying cash, prepaid Visa cards and fake identification, Schmidt said, calling the stabbing a “targeted, pre-planned and unprovoked attack on Mr. Rushdie.”
There were no security checks or metal detectors at the event, a person who witnessed the attack told CNN. The witness has not been identified because he expressed concern for his personal safety.
This has caused the security measures of the host institution to be questioned.
The institution’s leadership had rejected recommendations for basic security measures, such as bag checks and metal detectors, fearing it would create a divide between speakers and the audience, according to two sources who spoke to CNN on condition. anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
The institution’s president, Michael Hill, defended his organization’s security plans when asked during a news conference on Friday if there would be more precautions at future events.
“We assess for each event what the appropriate level of security is, and this was certainly one that we thought was important, which is why we had a state trooper and a sheriff on hand,” Hill said. “We will evaluate for each of the institution’s events what the appropriate level of security is and it is an ongoing process in which we work in collaboration with local law enforcement.”
Matar – who, according to authorities, has no documented criminal history – was described as a quiet person and almost always reserved. CNN spoke exclusively with State of Fitness boxing club owner Desmond Boyle, who said Matar signed up for the gym in North Bergen, New Jersey, in April.
“You know that look, that ‘it’s the worst day of your life’ look? It came every day like that,” Boyle told CNN on Saturday.
As the investigation continued, police were seen Friday night at the New Jersey home believed to be related to the suspect.
Rushdie had a bounty on his death
Rushdie’s writings have won several literary awards, but it was his fourth novel, “The Satanic Verses,” that drew the most scrutiny, as some Muslims considered the book sacrilegious. The book, which sparked demonstrations, was banned in multiple countries.
The late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who called the book an insult to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, issued a religious decree, or fatwa, calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989.
As a result, Rushdie began a decade under British protection.
The reward against Rushdie was never lifted, although in 1998 the Iranian government tried to distance itself from the fatwa by pledging not to try to carry it out.
However, in 2017, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was asked if the “fatwa against Rushdie was still in force,” and confirmed that it was, saying, “The decree is as issued by Imam Khomeini.” .
CNN’s Kiely Westhoff, Andy Rose, Paul P. Murphy, Aya Elamroussi, Ray Sanchez, Christina Maxouris, Artemis Moshtaghian, Sara Smart, Samantha Beech and Liam Reilly contributed to this report.