By Carolyn Thompson And Hillel Italie in Mayville
MAYVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — The man accused in the stabbing attackon Salman Rushdie pleaded not guilty Saturday to attempted murder and assault charges in what a prosecutor called a “preplanned” crime, as the renowned author of “The Satanic Verses” remained hospitalized with serious injuries.
An attorney for Hadi Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment in western New York. The suspect appeared in court wearing a black and white jumpsuit and a white face mask, with his hands cuffed in front of him.
A judge ordered him held without bail after District Attorney Jason Schmidt told her Matar took steps to purposely put himself in position to harm Rushdie, getting an advance pass to the event where the author was speaking and arriving a day early bearing a fake ID.
“This was a targeted, unprovoked, preplanned attack on Mr. Rushdie,” Schmidt said.
Public defender Nathaniel Barone complained that 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.”
“He has that constitutional right of presumed innocence,” Barone added.
Matar, 24, is accused of attacking Rushdie on Friday as the author was being introduced at a lecture at the Chautauqua Institute, a nonprofit education and retreat center.
Rushdie, 75, suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye, and was on a ventilator and unable to speak, his agent Andrew Wylie said Friday evening. Rushdie was likely to lose the injured eye.
The attack was met with shock and outrage from much of the world, along with tributes and praise for the award-winning author who for more than 30 years has faced death threats for “The Satanic Verses.”
Authors, activists and government officials cited Rushdie’s courage and longtime advocacy of free speech despite the risks to his own safety. Writer and longtime friend Ian McEwan called Rushdie “an inspirational defender of persecuted writers and journalists across the world,” and actor-author Kal Penn cited him as a role model “for an entire generation of artists, especially many of us in the South Asian diaspora toward whom he’s shown incredible warmth.”
President Joe Biden said Saturday in a statement that he and first lady Jill Biden were “shocked and saddened” by the attack.
“Salman Rushdie — with his insight into humanity, with his unmatched sense for story, with his refusal to be intimidated or silenced — stands for essential, universal ideals,” the statement read. “Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear. These are the building blocks of any free and open society.”
Rushdie, a native of India who has since lived in Britain and the U.S., is known for his surreal and satirical prose style, beginning with his Booker Prize-winning 1981 novel “Midnight’s Children,” in which he sharply criticized India’s then-prime minister, Indira Gandhi.
“The Satanic Verses” drew death threats after it was published in 1988, with many Muslims regarding as blasphemy a dream sequence based on the life of the Prophet Muhammad, among other objections. Rushdie’s book had already been banned and burned in India, Pakistan and elsewhere before Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death in 1989.
Khomeini died that same year, but the fatwa remains in effect. Iran’s current supreme leader, Khamenei, never issued a fatwa of his own withdrawing the edict, though Iran in recent years hasn’t focused on the writer.
Investigators were working to determine whether the assailant, born a decade after “The Satanic Verses” was published, acted alone.
District Attorney Schmidt alluded to the fatwa as a potential motive in arguing against bail.
“Even if this court were to set a million dollars bail, we stand a risk that bail could be met,” Schmidt said.
“His resources don’t matter to me. We understand that the agenda that was carried out yesterday is something that was adopted and it’s sanctioned by larger groups and organizations well beyond the jurisdictional borders of Chautauqua County,” the prosecutor said.
Barone, the public defender, said after the hearing that Matar has been communicating openly with him and that he would spend the coming weeks trying to learn about his client, including whether he has psychological or addiction issues.
Matar is from Fairview, New Jersey. Rosaria Calabrese, manager of the State of Fitness Boxing Club, a small, tightly knit gym in nearby North Bergen, said Matar joined April 11 and participated in about 27 group sessions for beginners looking to improve their fitness before emailing her several days ago to say he wanted to cancel his membership because “he wouldn’t be coming back for a while.”
Gym owner Desmond Boyle said he saw “nothing violent” about Matar, describing him as polite and quiet, yet someone who always looked “tremendously sad.” He said Matar resisted attempts by him and others to welcome and engage him.
“He had this look every time he came in. It looked like it was the worst day of his life,” Boyle said.
Matar was born in the United States to parents who emigrated from Yaroun in southern Lebanon, the mayor of the village, Ali Tehfe, told The Associated Press.
Flags are visible across the village of Iran-backed Shia militant group Hezbollah and portraits of leader Hassan Nasrallah, Khamenei, Khomeini and slain Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Journalists visiting Yaroun on Saturday were asked to leave. Hezbollah spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment.
Iran’s theocratic government and its state-run media assigned no motive for the attack. In Tehran, some Iranians interviewed by the AP praised the attack on an author they believe tarnished the Islamic faith, while others worried it would further isolate their country.
An AP reporter witnessed the attacker stab or punch Rushdie about 10 or 15 times. Dr. Martin Haskell, a physician who was among those who rushed to help, described Rushdie’s wounds as “serious but recoverable.”
Event moderator Henry Reese, 73, suffered a facial injury and was treated and released from a hospital, police said. He and Rushdie had planned to discuss the United States as a refuge for writers and other artists in exile.
A state trooper and a county sheriff’s deputy were assigned to Rushdie’s lecture, and state police said the trooper made the arrest. But afterward some longtime visitors to the center questioned why there wasn’t tighter security given the threats against Rushdie and a bounty of more than $3 million on his head.
News about the stabbing has led to renewed interest in “The Satanic Verses,” which topped best seller lists after the fatwa was issued in 1989. As of Saturday afternoon, the novel ranked No. 13 on Amazon.com.
The book’s publication in 1988 sparked often-violent protests around the Muslim world against Rushdie, who was born to a Muslim family and has long identified as a nonbeliever, once calling himself “a hardline atheist.”
At least 45 people were killed in riots, including 12 in Rushdie’s hometown of Mumbai. In 1991, a Japanese translator of the book was stabbed to death and an Italian translator survived a knife attack. In 1993, the book’s Norwegian publisher was shot three times and survived.
The death threats and bounty led Rushdie to go into hiding under a British government protection program, which included an around-the-clock armed guard. After nine years of seclusion, Rushdie cautiously resumed more public appearances, maintaining his outspoken criticism of religious extremism overall.
In 2012 he published a memoir about the fatwa titled “Joseph Anton,” the pseudonym Rushdie used while in hiding.
He said during a New York talk that year that terrorism was really the art of fear: “The only way you can defeat it is by deciding not to be afraid.”
Italie reported from New York. Associated Press journalist Kareem Chehayeb contributed to this report from Beirut.
Winnipeg man pleads guilty to manslaughter in the death of Saskatchewan RCMP officer
A man has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of a Saskatchewan RCMP officer. RCMP Constable Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. Patton, of the Indian Head Detachment, was killed on June 12, 2021, after being hit by a pickup truck during a traffic stop. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
By Jeremy Simes in Regina
The mother of a Saskatchewan RCMP officer who was killed two years ago says it was “hell” to watch a Winnipeg man plead guilty to manslaughter in her son’s death.
Alphonse Stanley Traverse pleaded guilty on Wednesday to the charge in Regina Court of King’s Bench for his role in Const. Shelby Patton’s death. Traverse also pleaded guilty to a charge of stealing a motor vehicle.
“It’s very traumatic,” Melanie Patton, the mother of the 26-year-old Mountie, said in an interview.
“It’s better than sitting through a trial, but at the same time there’s so much trauma and we’re not going to recover. It’s like I’m living in hell.”
Shelby Patton was killed more than two years ago when he attempted to stop a stolen truck, driven by Traverse, near the town of Wolseley, east of Regina.
According to an agreed statement of facts, Traverse had been driving from Winnipeg to Saskatchewan in June 2021 to play VLTs. He was with Marlene Pagee at the time, and they chose to go to Saskatchewan because bars were open in the province. COVID-19 measures meant bars were closed in Manitoba.
Traverse was on warrant status for various Criminal Code offences, the document said, and Pagee had been on bail with conditions. She also faces one count of accessory to murder after the fact in Patton’s death.
Court heard Traverse and Pagee were driving a stolen green truck as they made their way to Saskatchewan. They were both using crystal meth.
However, the green truck wasn’t working well, so Traverse and Pagee began looking for another vehicle. The document said they came across another truck near Pipestone, Man., and stole it. The truck was unlocked and had keys in the ignition.
The document said Traverse and Pagee made their way to Wolseley and stopped outside a hotel. Patton was then dispatched to investigate a suspected stolen truck in town.
When Patton arrived, court heard the couple noticed the Mountie’s car, so they decided to drive away. However, Patton stopped them shortly thereafter and walked towards the driver’s window, speaking with Traverse.
Court heard Patton had asked Traverse if he worked for the company that owned the truck. Traverse lied, saying he did. Patton then told him the truck had been reported stolen, asking him to step out of the vehicle until the issue could be sorted.
Traverse then turned to Pagee, saying “I can’t,” and started the truck.
Court heard Patton stepped up on the truck’s running board and reached for the key’s inside. The truck then accelerated rapidly and jerked.
The document said Patton fell off the running board. The rear driver-side tire ran over his body, killing him.
Melanie Patton said her son’s death was no accident.
“He was a very good officer. He did not make a mistake,” she said. “I’m sure any officer would have done the same. The job is very dangerous and getting more dangerous, unfortunately.”
She said she hopes Traverse is given the maximum penalty.
Traverse is scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 17.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2023.
Conditional sentence for woman who set fires at start of 2022 wildfire season
A 43-year-old Kamloops, B.C., woman has been sentenced for two arson fires she admitted to setting. A warning sign about fire risk is seen as smoke from wildfires fills the air, in Kelowna, B.C., Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
A 43-year-old Kamloops, B.C., woman who admitted to setting two arson fires has been sentenced.
Angela Cornish was charged with four counts of arson, related to numerous fires set between April and May 2022, at the start of the wildfire season.
Cornish pleaded guilty to two arsons near the southern Interior community of Lac Le Jeune and records show she received a six month conditional sentence during an appearance in provincial court in Kamloops on Tuesday.
The court stayed three other charges related to alleged arsons near Monte Lake, Pinantan Lake and Lac Le Jeune.
An investigation by RCMP and the BC Wildfire Service began last spring after residents alerted officials to slash piles that had been set ablaze along remote logging roads south and east of Kamloops.
None of the fires spread into the nearby grass or bush.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2023.
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