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Salman Rushdie ‘on the road to recovery,’ agent says

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MAYVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — Salman Rushdie is “on the road to recovery,” his agent confirmed Sunday, two days after the author of “The Satanic Verses” suffered serious injuries in a stabbing at a lecture in upstate New York.

The announcement followed news that the lauded writer was removed from a ventilator Saturday and able to talk and joke. Literary agent Andrew Wylie cautioned that although Rushdie’s “condition is headed in the right direction,” his recovery would be a long process. Rushdie, 75, suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye, Wylie had previously said, and was likely to lose the injured eye.

“Though his life changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty & defiant sense of humour remains intact,” Rushdie’s son Zafar Rushdie said in a Sunday statement that stressed the author remained in critical condition. The statement on behalf of the family also expressed gratitude for the “audience members who bravely leapt to his defence,” as well as police, doctors and “the outpouring of love and support from around the world.”

Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty Saturday to attempted murder and assault charges in what a prosecutor called “a targeted, unprovoked, preplanned attack” at the Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit education and retreat center.

The attack was met with global shock and outrage, along with praise for the man who, for more than three decades, has weathered death threats and a $3 million bounty on his head for “The Satanic Verses.” Rushdie even spent nine years in hiding under a British government protection program.

Authors, activists and government officials cited Rushdie’s bravery and longtime championing of free speech in the face of such intimidation. Writer and longtime friend Ian McEwan labeled Rushdie “an inspirational defender of persecuted writers and journalists” and actor-author Kal Penn called him a role model “for an entire generation of artists, especially many of us in the South Asian diaspora.”

“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,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a Saturday statement. “Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear.”

Rushdie, who was born in India to a Muslim family and has lived in Britain and the U.S., is known for his surreal and satirical prose, beginning with his Booker Prize-winning 1981 novel “Midnight’s Children,” in which he sharply criticized India’s then-prime minister, Indira Gandhi.

Infused with magical realism, 1988’s “The Satanic Verses” drew ire from some Muslims who regarded elements of the novel as blasphemy.

They believed Rushdie insulted the Prophet Muhammad by naming a character Mahound, a medieval corruption of “Muhammad.” The character was a prophet in a city called Jahilia, which in Arabic refers to the time before the advent of Islam on the Arabian Peninsula. Another sequence has prostitutes that share names with some of Muhammad’s nine wives. The novel also implies that Muhammad, not Allah, may have been the Quran’s real author.

The book had already been banned and burned in India, Pakistan and elsewhere when 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 — though Iran, in recent years, hadn’t focused on Rushdie.

Iran’s state-run newspaper, Iran Daily, praised the attack as an “implementation of divine decree” Sunday. Another hardline newspaper, Kayhan, termed it “divine revenge” that would partially calm the anger of Muslims.

Investigators were trying to determine whether the suspect, born nearly a decade after the novel’s publication, acted alone. A prosecutor alluded to the standing fatwa as a potential motive in arguing against bail.

“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,” District Attorney Jason Schmidt said.

Schmidt said Matar got an advance pass to the event where the author was speaking and arrived a day early bearing a fake ID. The judge ordered Matar held without bail.

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” and stressed that Matar had the right to presumed innocence.

Barone 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 was born in the United States to parents who emigrated from Yaroun in southern Lebanon, village mayor Ali Tehfe told The Associated Press. Flags of the Iran-backed Shia militant group Hezbollah, along with portraits of Hezbollah and Iranian leaders, were visible across Yaroun before journalists visiting Saturday were asked to leave.

Hezbollah spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment.

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.

Event moderator Henry Reese, 73, suffered a facial injury and was released from a hospital, police said. He and Rushdie had planned to discuss the United States as a refuge for artists in exile.

A state trooper and a county sheriff’s deputy were assigned to Rushdie’s lecture, and police said the trooper made the arrest. But afterward, some longtime visitors to the bucolic vacation colony questioned why there wasn’t tighter security given the history of threats against Rushdie.

On Friday, an AP reporter witnessed the attacker stab or punch Rushdie about 10 or 15 times.

News about the stabbing has led to renewed interest in “The Satanic Verses,” which topped bestseller lists after the fatwa was issued in 1989. As of Sunday morning, the novel ranked No. 11 on Amazon.com’s list.

One of Rushdie’s ex-wives, the author and television host Padma Lakshmi, tweeted Sunday that she was “relieved” by Rushdie’s prognosis.

“Worried and wordless, can finally exhale,” she wrote. “Now hoping for swift healing.”

___

Italie reported from New York. Associated Press journalists Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, and Kareem Chehayeb in Beirut contributed to this report.

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Alberta

‘Ludicrous’: Prosecutor questions testimony of teen in Calgary hit-and-run cop death

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By Bill Graveland in Calgary

A prosecutor suggested Wednesday a teen charged with first-degree murder in the hit-and-run death of a Calgary Police Service officer had no reason to believe he was in danger.

Sgt. Andrew Harnett died in hospital on Dec. 31, 2020, after being dragged by a fleeing SUV and falling into the path of an oncoming car.

The alleged driver, who cannot be identified because he was 17 at the time, has testified he was scared when Harnett and another officer approached the vehicle during a traffic stop and he saw Harnett put his hand on his gun.

But during cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Mike Ewenson played the body-camera footage of the stop. He asked the accused, who is now 19, if there was any proof Harnett was being threatening or insulting during the routine traffic stop.

“You brought up George Floyd in your direct examination. Do you remember what happened to George Floyd?” Ewenson asked.

The accused replied: “He got pulled out of the vehicle and I think they stepped on his neck … and he said he couldn’t breathe.”

Floyd was a Black man who was killed during an arrest by Minnesota police on May 25, 2020.

During testimony Tuesday, the teen testified he and his friends had discussed the Floyd case on social media.

“Let’s talk about what we just saw with Sgt. Harnett if we could, because you’re bringing this up at a trial that involves his death,” said Ewenson. “Any abusive language from him?”

“No,” the teen replied.

“Anything that was insulting to your age, your race, your ethnic background or religion,” Ewenson asked.

“Not necessarily, no. Actually, I felt like I was being racialized, right? Just the fact that the door opened and the fact that he asked for my phone number. I’ve never been asked for my phone number.”

Ewenson said any talk of the traffic stop being racist was just something the teen wanted the court to “take his word for” and there’s nothing that would be considered racist from Harnett’s behaviour.

“That’s how I felt,” the accused replied.

The teen repeatedly told Ewenson that he wasn’t sure how he ended up in the neighbourhood. He said he was following his GPS to get to a party. He also said he didn’t know who the third person in the back seat of the vehicle was, who had come with a friend.

Ewenson said it’s unlikely there would be memory lapses after an event that was the “most traumatic, powerful” and “consequential” night of the teen’s life.

“So looking back on it, you realize the story is ludicrous? The story doesn’t make sense, does it?” Ewenson asked. “Everything for you is a mindless reaction.”

The suspect said at the time he panicked and just decided to take off because he was afraid. The teen said looking back, he wishes his decision had been different.

“Look, to be frank to you, I’ve sat for two years in jail and I’ve thought about this over and over and over again,” he said. “It’s different when I think about it now and what I was going through at the moment.”

Ewenson suggested it was more likely something illegal was inside the suspect vehicle that made fleeing a simple traffic stop worth the risk.

Closing arguments in the trial are scheduled for Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2022.

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Alberta

Incredible luxury homes and vehicles seized in massive international $55 million drug bust with Alberta roots

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Niagara-On-The-Lake home seized by police in Project Cobra operation

News release from the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT)

Project Cobra intercepts $55 million worth of drugs

More than an estimated $55 million worth of methamphetamine and cocaine has been seized following a cross-border investigation by ALERT, RCMP Federal Serious and Organized Crime, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Project Cobra is a nearly three-year organized crime investigation into transnational drug importation, drug trafficking, and money laundering.

Halifax County home seized by police in Project Cobra operation

As the result of enforcement initiatives on both sides of the border, 928 kilograms of methamphetamine and 6 kilograms of cocaine were intercepted. In addition, approximately $7 million worth of assets have been seized or placed under criminal restraint.

Project Cobra relied on the assistance of a number of police agencies and specialized units, including: Calgary Police Service, Edmonton Police Service, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Niagara Regional Police, Canada Revenue Agency, Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), and RCMP units in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Saskatoon, North Battleford, Sask., and Osoyoos, B.C.

Lamborghinis and Porsche seized by police in Project Cobra operation

Mercedes-Benz seized by police in Project Cobra operation

Police agencies collaborated to make numerous large-scale drug seizures during the course of Project Cobra. These were shipments destined for Alberta, and included the following seizures:

  • 342 kg of meth in Wyoming;
  • 308 kg of meth in Los Angeles;
  • 137 kg of meth in Calgary;
  • 84 kg of meth in Los Angeles;
  • 50 kg of meth at Lake Koocanusa, B.C.;
  • 7 kg of meth and 1 kg of cocaine in Calgary; and
  • 5 kg of cocaine in North Battleford, Sask.


Nineteen firearms were also seized, which included handguns, rifles, submachine guns, and suppressors.

Seven million dollars’ worth of property, bank accounts, luxury vehicles, and other suspected proceeds of crime has been seized or placed under criminal restraint. This includes a $3.5 million home in Niagara-on-the-Lake, two Lamborghinis, a Porsche, classic cars, and $200,000 cash.

Project Cobra began in 2020 and a series of 11 coordinated search warrants were executed in December 2021. Homes, vehicles, businesses, and storage locations were searched in Calgary, Bedford, Nova Scotia, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., and Leduc County, Alta.

Fifteen people and one business have been charged with 80 criminal offences ranging from participation in a criminal organization, to importation of a controlled substance, to laundering proceeds of crime, to drug trafficking.

The suspects were arrested and charged between May 2022 and August 2022:

  • Elias Ade, 38-year -old from Calgary, charged with 12 offences;
  • Abdul Akbar, 37-year-old from Calgary, charged with 8 offences;
  • Tianna Bull, 25-year-old from North Battleford, charged with 1 offence;
  • Lina El-Chammoury, 50-year-old from Calgary, charged with 2 offences;
  • Russell Ens, 39-year-old from North Battleford, charged with 2 offences;
  • Talal Fouani, 46-year-old from Calgary, charged with 3 offences;
  • Belal Fouani, 44-year-old from Calgary, charged with 3 offences;
  • Kari-Lynn Grant, 51-year-old from Calgary, charged with 4 offences;
  • Scott Hunt, 33-year-old from Calgary, charged with 3 offences;
  • Ricco King, 50-year-old from Bedford, N.S., charged with 5 offences;
  • Jarett Mackenzie, 32-year-old from Calgary, charged with 6 offences;
  • Jesse Marshall, 52-year-old from Calgary, charged with 4 offences;
  • Daniel Menzul, 32-year-old from Calgary, charged with 4 offences;
  • Sean Nesbitt, 44-year-old from Calgary, charged with 3 offences;
  • William Whiteford, 39-year-old from Leduc County, charged with 20 offences; and
  • Fouani Equity Funds Ltd. charged with 1 offence.

Fouani Equity Funds Ltd. is a Calgary-based investment company and was charged with laundering proceeds for an organized crime group.

Members of the public who suspect drug or gang activity in their community can call local police, or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Crime Stoppers is always anonymous.

ALERT was established and is funded by the Alberta Government and is a compilation of the province’s most sophisticated law enforcement resources committed to tackling serious and organized crime.

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