Iran denies involvement but justifies attack on Salman Rushdie

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An Iranian official on Monday denied that Tehran was involved in the stabbing of author Salman Rushdie, although he sought to justify the attack in the first public comments by the Islamic Republic on Bloodshed.

The remarks by Nasser Kanaani, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, came three days after Rushdie was injured in New York State. The writer was taken off a ventilator and is “on the road to recovery”, according to his agent.

Rushdie, 75, has faced death threats for more than 30 years for his novel ‘The Satanic Verses’, whose depiction of the Prophet Muhammad has been seen by some Muslims as blasphemous.

In 1989 Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or Islamic edict, demanding the author’s death, and although Iran has not focused on Rushdie in recent years , the decree is still valid.

In addition, a semi-official Iranian foundation paid a bounty of over $3 million for the murder of the author. He did not comment on the attack.

“Regarding the attack on Salman Rushdie in America, we do not see anyone as deserving of blame, rebuke or even condemnation except (Rushdie) himself and his supporters,” Kanaani said. .

“In this regard, no one can blame the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he added. “We believe that the insults uttered and the support he received was an insult to followers of all religions.”

Iran has denied carrying out any other operations abroad against dissidents in the years following the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, although prosecutors and Western governments have attributed such attacks to Tehran.

Rushdie was attacked on Friday as he prepared to give a talk in western New York. He suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and eye, according to his agent, Andrew Wylie. Rushdie is likely to lose his eye, Wylie said.

Her alleged attacker, Hadi Matar, has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault.

Matar, 24, was born in the United States to parents who emigrated from Yaroun, in southern Lebanon, near the Israeli border, according to the village mayor.

Matar had lived for the past few years in New Jersey with his mother, who told the London Daily Mail that her son became sullen and more religious after a month-long trip to Lebanon in 2018.

“I expected him to come back motivated, finish school, get his degree and get a job. But instead, he locked himself in the basement. He had changed a lot, he didn’t tell me or his sisters for months,” Silvana Fardos said.

Yaroun village records show Matar holds Lebanese nationality and is Shia, an official said. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said Matar’s father lives there but has been in solitary confinement since the attack.

Flags of the Iran-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah, as well as portraits of Hezbollah and Iranian leaders, hang in the village. Israel has bombed Hezbollah positions near there in the past.

New York police did not provide a motive for the attack, although District Attorney Jason Schmidt hinted at Rushdie’s bounty arguing against bail at a hearing over the weekend.

“Even if this court were to set a bond of $1 million, we run the risk that the bond could be met,” Schmidt said.

In his remarks on Monday, Kanaani added that Iran had “no other information beyond what the US media has reported.” He also hinted that Rushdie instigated the attack on himself.

“Salman Rushdie exposed himself to popular anger and fury by insulting the sanctity of Islam and crossing the red lines of over 1.5 billion Muslims as well as the red lines of followers of all religions divine,” Kanaani said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, while not directly blaming Tehran for the attack on Rushdie, on Monday denounced Iran in a statement praising the writer’s support for freedom of speech and religion.

“Iranian state institutions have incited violence against Rushdie for generations, and state-affiliated media recently gloated over the attempt on his life,” Blinken said. “It’s despicable.”

State Department spokesman Ned Price, speaking to reporters in Washington on Monday, condemned the Iranian government for blaming Rushdie for the attack. “It is despicable. It’s disgusting. We condemn it,” he said.

“We have heard Iranian officials seek to incite violence over the years, of course, with the initial fatwa, but even more recently with the jubilation that followed this attack on his life. This is something absolutely outrageous. »

Although fatwas can be revoked, Iran’s current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who took power after Khomeini’s death, never did. As recently as 2017, Khamenei said, “The decree is the one that Imam Khomeini issued.”

Tensions between Iran and the West, particularly the United States, have risen since President Donald Trump pulled America out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018.

Trump-Ordered Drone Strike Kills Top Iranian Revolutionary Guard General in 2020, exacerbating these tensions.

Last week, the United States accused a member of the Guard in absentia of plotting to kill former Trump adviser and Iranian hawk John Bolton. Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and an aide are under 24-hour security for alleged threats from Iran.

US prosecutors also claim that Iran attempted in 2021 to kidnap an Iranian opposition activist and writer living in New York. In recent days, a man armed with an assault rifle was arrested near her home.


Associated Press writers Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.


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