A man who would have stabbed Sir Salman Rushdie would have said that he did not think the writer would survive.
Hadi Matar, 24, denies the charges of attempted murder and assault after the perpetrator was seriously injured as he was about to deliver a speech in Chautauqua, New York, last Friday.
The 75-year-old British of Indian descent has received death threats for decades since Iran’s then leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, in 1989 calling for Sir Salman be killed.
It came after his 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses, was considered blasphemous by some Muslims.
Speaking to the New York Post from Chautauqua County Jail, Matar said of Rushdie: “When I heard he survived, I was surprised, I guess.”
He also said, “I don’t like the person. I don’t think he’s a good person. I don’t like him. I don’t like him very much.
“He is one who attacked Islam, attacked their beliefs, belief systems.”
According to the Post, Matar continued: “I respect the Ayatollah. I think he’s a great person. That’s what I can say about it.” He noted that he had “only read a couple of pages” of Sir Salman’s controversial novel.
He wouldn’t say if he was inspired by the late ayatollah, citing a warning from his lawyer.
Sir Salman was stabbed about 12 times, including in the face and neck, when he was introduced to the Chautauqua institute, local officials said.
A preliminary social media review of Matar showed he had sympathies for Shia extremism and the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard, according to NBC News, which quoted a law enforcement official with first-hand knowledge of the investigation.
The defendant, from Fairview, New Jersey, who appeared in court, denied being in contact with the Revolutionary Guard and said he was inspired to go to Chautauqua after seeing a tweet announcing Sir Salman’s visit in winter.
He described how he took a bus to Buffalo the day before he stabbed Rushdie, and then took a taxi to Chautauqua.
“It’s a nice place,” he said, referring to the institute.
“I was pretty much walking around. I wasn’t doing anything in particular, I was just walking around,” he added, saying he slept on the grass last Thursday night. “I’ve been out all the time.”
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The writer said the Iranian foreign ministry led to the attack that left him with “life-changing” wounds..
One stab pierced his eye and another his liver, the Chautauqua County District Attorney’s Office said.
Sir Salman was also stabbed elsewhere in the abdomen and chest.
His son said on Sunday that his father was “able to say a few words” and retains his “usual exuberant and provocative sense of humor”.
Zafar Rushdie said Sir Salman remained in “critical condition” but a fan was removed on Saturday.
Police said event moderator Henry Reese also suffered mild head trauma after being attacked.