Publication of Salman Rushdie memoirs postpones trial for attempted murder of ‘The Satanic Verses’ author

The judge in charge of the case has delayed the hearing so that lawyers can access the manuscript and other related materials for Hadi Matar’s defense

Salman Rushdie
Writer Salman Rushdie at an awards ceremony in London last July.Jordan Pettitt - PA Images (via Getty Images)
Macarena Vidal Liy

The trial of the man accused of stabbing British writer Salman Rushdie in 2022 has been postponed after the magistrate in charge of the case ruled that the alleged attacker has the right to read the author’s memoir about the incident, which will be published in April.

Chautauqua County (NY) Judge David Foley had indicated Tuesday that Hadi Matar, 26, has the right to access the manuscript and any related materials in order to prepare his defense. But because the volume is not yet published, Foley left it up to Matar’s attorney, Nathaniel Barone, to decide whether to wait until the book is available.

On Wednesday Foley announced the postponement of the trial, which was scheduled to have started next week. Jury selection was set to begin on Monday, January 8.

The delay will allow Matar’s lawyers to request delivery of “certain materials underlying the planned publication of Mr. Rushdie’s book,” according to the prosecutor in charge of the case, Jason Schmidt. Schmidt had asked the publishers for a copy of the volume, a request that was denied on intellectual property grounds.

The prosecutor has played down the significance of the postponement, which he says will not affect the outcome of the trial. Nor does he believe that the existence of the memoir will have a great impact on the development of the hearing, given that the attack occurred in public in front of a large audience and there are numerous eyewitnesses and recordings of what took place.

“It’s not just the book,” Barone told the AP news agency. “Every little note Rushdie wrote down, I get, I’m entitled to. Every discussion, every recording, anything he did in regard to this book.”

The volume, titled Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder, will go on sale April 16, according to Penguin, the author’s publisher. Rushdie revealed in October that he was working on the book, at a time when preparations for the trial were already underway.

Rushdie was due to give a talk in Chautauqua on August 12, 2022, when a man approached the podium and stabbed the author of The Satanic Verses a dozen times in the neck, stomach, thigh, chest, and eye. The writer was hospitalized for a month and a half and ended up losing the sight in his right eye and the sensation of touch in several fingers of his left hand.

In an interview given to The New York Post after his arrest, Matar alleged that Rushdie had “attacked Islam” and praised the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, who in 1989 issued a fatwa, or Islamic edict, calling for the writer’s death for the content of The Satanic Verses, which some Muslims consider blasphemous.

That sentence forced Rushdie to live in hiding and under the protection of Scotland Yard for several years, although after Khomeini’s death he has been able to travel freely.

Matar has dual U.S.-Lebanese citizenship. His mother has stated that the young man changed and became more introverted and moody after a visit to his father in the Arab country in 2018.

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