“He’s no longer on a ventilator, so the road to recovery has begun,” Rushdie’s agent Andrew Wylie told CNN on Sunday. “It will be a long time – the injuries are serious. But his condition is going in the right direction.”
“Although his life-changing injuries are severe, his usual fiery and provocative sense of humor remains intact,” the statement read.
Rushdie was preparing to give a talk at the Chautauqua Institution on Friday when a man jumped onto the stage and stabbed him in several places, including his neck and stomach.
“It was very difficult to understand. It looked like a bad prank and it had no sense of reality,” said Ralph Henry Reese, another speaker at the event who suffered a minor head injury during of the attack. He was taken to hospital by ambulance and then released with a facial injury.
“And then when there was blood behind him, it became real,” Reese told CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday.
Rushdie was airlifted to hospital after the attack and underwent surgery, police said. The author may end up losing his right eye, Schmidt said.
“We are so grateful to all members of the public who bravely stood up for him and administered first aid along with the police and doctors who treated him,” the statement read, “and for the outpouring of love and support from all over the world.”
In a tweet on Sunday, Padma Lakshmi, the TV host and former wife of the author, said she was “relieved” that Rushdie was “coming through after Friday’s nightmare”.
“Worried and mute, can finally breathe out. Now let’s hope for a speedy recovery,” she said.
The suspect pleaded not guilty
The lawyer said Matar was “very cooperative” and communicated openly, but he did not discuss what was said during those conversations.
Matar was denied bail and returned to the Chautauqua County Jail. His next court appearance is Friday.
He faces up to 32 years if convicted on both counts, Schmidt said.
The FBI is currently working with local and international authorities to investigate the attack at the Chautauqua institution, which occurred in front of an audience as Rushdie was introduced.
A witness, Joyce Lussier, was sitting in the second row when she saw a man jump across the stage and lunge at Rushdie. She heard people screaming and crying, she told CNN, and saw people from the audience rushing onto the stage.
Another witness, Stephen Davies, who captured video of the moments immediately after Rushdie’s attack, said he could not say whether the assailant had a knife in his hand, although the felony complaint against Matar indicates that he used a knife.
“He lunged at Mr. Rushdie and started hitting him with his hand, very quickly,” Davies said. “I was completely stunned and shocked.”
The suspect had a pass for the event who is now facing questions about his security procedures
The suspect arrived in Chautauqua at least a day before the event and purchased an event pass two days prior, Schmidt said during Matar’s arraignment.
Matar traveled to Chautauqua by bus and had cash, prepaid Visa cards and fake IDs on him, said Schmidt, who called the stabbing a “targeted attack, pre -planned and unprovoked against Mr. Rushdie”.
There were no security searches or metal detectors at the event, a person who witnessed the attack told CNN. The witness has not been identified because he expressed concerns for his personal safety.
The attack raised questions about security measures at the host facility.
The institution’s management had rejected recommendations for basic security measures, including bag checks and metal detectors, fearing it would drive a wedge between speakers and the public, according to two sources who spoke. to CNN on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. .
The institution’s president, Michael Hill, defended his organization’s security plans when asked at a press conference on Friday whether there would be more precautions at future events.
“We assess for each event what we think is the appropriate level of security, and this was certainly the one we thought was important, which is why we had a State Trooper and Sheriff presence there,” said Hill. “We will assess for each of the events at the facility what we believe is the appropriate level of security and this is an ongoing process that we are working on in conjunction with local law enforcement.”
Matar – who authorities say has no documented criminal history – was described as a quiet person who mostly kept to himself. CNN spoke exclusively to State of Fitness Boxing Club owner Desmond Boyle, who said Matar signed up at the gym in North Bergen, New Jersey, in April.
“You know that look, that ‘this is the worst day of your life’ look? It came on every day like that,” Boyle told CNN on Saturday.
As the investigation continued, police were seen Friday night at a New Jersey home believed to be linked to the suspect.
Rushdie had a bounty on his head
Rushdie’s writings won him several literary awards, but it was his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, that garnered the most attention as some Muslims found the book sacrilegious. The book, which sparked protests, has been banned in several countries.
Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who described the book as 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 bounty against Rushdie was never lifted, although in 1998 the Iranian government sought to distance itself from the fatwa by pledging not to seek execution.
However, in 2017, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was asked if the “fatwa against Rushdie was still in effect”, and he confirmed that it was, saying: “The decree is the one that Imam Khomeini issued”.
CNN’s Kiely Westhoff, Andy Rose, Paul P. Murphy, Aya Elamroussi, Ray Sanchez, Christina Maxouris, Artemis Moshtaghian, Sara Smart and Samantha Beech contributed to this report.