Man Charged With Stabbing Salman Rushdie Rejects Plea Deal

Hadi Matar, the man charged in the stabbing of Salman Rushdie two years ago, rejected a plea deal that would have shortened his sentence in a state prison on Tuesday. Matar’s lawyer, Nathaniel Barone, said he did not like part of the deal that would have opened him up to a federal terrorism charge, according to The Associated Press.

If Matar had agreed to the deal, he would have served up to 20 years in state prison; without the plea deal, he faces up to 25 years. The AP reports that the deal also included a federal charge of trying to give material support to a terrorist organization, which could trigger an additional 20 years in prison. Matar, who was born in the U.S. but also has Lebanese citizenship, has been held without bail since the stabbing in the summer of 2022.

Rushdie was giving a lecture at New York’s Chautauqua Institution when a man stormed the stage and stabbed the author more than a dozen times, blinding him in one eye. Authorities arrested and charged Matar, who lived in Fairview, New Jersey, that day. Matar’s mother saw a change in her son after a trip to Lebanon, where he visited his father in 2018, according to The AP.

The depiction of the prophet Muhammad in Rushdie’s 1988 book, The Satanic Verses, sparked the ire of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, who issued a fatwa the next year calling for Rushdie’s death. Khomeini died that year, and because only the person who issued a fatwa can withdraw it, according to custom, some believe it still stands. The threat led Rushdie to live in hiding for several years, a period he chronicled in his 2012 memoir, Joseph Anton. Matar, who was 26, was born in the late Nineties, well after both the issuance of the fatwa and Khomeni’s death.


“I respect the ayatollah,” Matar said in a 2022 interview with The New York Post. “I think he’s a great person.” In the same interview, he said he’d “read, like, two pages” of The Satanic Verses.

Rushdie detailed the attack in a new memoir, Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder, which came out earlier this year.