Iranian foreign ministry says Salman Rushdie is 'to blame' for stabbing attack after 'insulting religion'

Sir Salman Rushdie is "to blame" for the stabbing attack that left him with life-changing injuries, Iran's foreign ministry has said

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Sir Salman was stabbed at least once in the neck and once in the abdomen in a New York attack on Friday.

But Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani has said "Salman Rushdie and his supporters are to blame for what happened to him".

He added: "Freedom of speech does not justify Salman Rushdie's insults upon religion and offence of its sanctities."

The man accused of stabbing him pleaded not guilty on Saturday to charges of attempted murder and assault, in what a prosecutor called a “pre-planned” crime.

A lawyer for Hadi Matar, 24, entered the plea on his behalf during a formal hearing at a court in western New York.

Writer Sir Salman Rushdie
Writer Sir Salman Rushdie
Sir Salman was attacked on Friday
Sir Salman was attacked on Friday

But Iran has no other information about Rushdie's assailant except what has appeared in media, Mr Kanaani said.

Sir Salman, an Indian-born Briton, whose novel The Satanic Verses led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was about to deliver a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution when he was attacked.

The author lived in hiding for many years in London under Government protection programme after Iran issued a fatwa on his life.

In 1998, the Iranian government withdrew its support for the death sentence and Sir Salman gradually returned to public life.

He even appeared as himself in the 2001 film Bridget Jones’s Diary.

The Index on Censorship, an organisation promoting free expression, said money was raised to boost the reward for Sir Salman’s killing as recently as 2016, underscoring that the fatwa still stands.

He was knighted in 2008 and earlier this year was made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

The accused Matar appeared in court wearing a black and white jumpsuit and a white face mask, with his hands cuffed in front of him, at the weekend.

A judge ordered him to be held without bail after district attorney Jason Schmidt told her Matar took steps to purposely put himself in a position to harm Sir Salman, getting an advance pass to the event where the author was speaking and arriving a day early with a fake ID.

Mr Schmidt said: “This was a targeted, unprovoked, pre-planned attack on Mr Rushdie."

Public defender Nathaniel Barone said the authorities had taken too long to get Matar in front of a judge, while leaving him “hooked up to a bench at the state police barracks”.