By Debbie Reiss, World Israel News
The man accused of repeatedly stabbing author Salman Rushdie had contact with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Vice News reported on Sunday, citing intelligence officials.
Hadi Matar, 24, from New Jersey, pleaded not guilty in a court on Saturday to charges of attempted murder and assault.
The suspect “had been in direct contact with members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on social media”, Vice reported, citing “European and Middle Eastern intelligence officials.” The report said it was not clear how much involvement the IRGC had.
An unnamed NATO official told Vice the attack “had all the hallmarks of a ‘guided’ attack, where an intelligence service talks a supporter into action, without direct support or involvement in the attack itself.”
Iran has denied any involvement in the assault, even though Rushdie was the target of a fatwa (religious edict) calling for his murder issued by the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini a year after he wrote “The Satanic Verses” in 1988.
A bounty of $3 million was offered for his killer.
Iran blamed Rushdie and his supporters for the attack.
“We, in the incident of the attack on Salman Rushdie in the US, do not consider that anyone deserves blame and accusations except him and his supporters,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said, adding that freedom of speech did not “justify Rushdie’s insults upon religion.”
“Nobody has right to accuse Iran in this regard.”
Matar’s mother, Lebanese immigrant Silvana Fardos, told the Daily Mail that her son had become a religious zealot after a month-long trip to Lebanon in 2018. Fardos had hoped her son would return “motivated,” but instead he became “a moody introvert,” refusing to socialize with family and friends.
Matar’s father, meanwhile, has locked himself in at his home in Yaroun in southern Lebanon and is refusing to speak to anyone, the mayor of the town, Ali Tehfe, said on Sunday according to Reuters.
“His father is in the country now but he has locked himself in and is not accepting to give any kind of statement to anyone. We tried with him, we sent people, we went and knocked the door but he is not agreeing to speak to anyone,” he said.
Prosecutors charged Matar with carrying out a “targeted, unprovoked, pre-planned attack” on Rushdie.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday slammed Iranian state institutions for “inciting violence” against the Indian-born British-American author “for generations.”
“State-affiliated media recently gloated about the attempt on his life. This is despicable,” Blinken said.
Rushdie’s son Zafar issued a statement about his father’s condition on Sunday.
“My father remains in critical condition in hospital receiving extensive ongoing medical treatment. We are extremely relieved that yesterday he was taken off the ventilator and additional oxygen and he was able to say a few words,” he said.
According to another Middle Eastern intelligence official cited by Vice, it was unlikely the attacker acted on his own accord.
“A 24-year-old born in the United States does not come up with Salman Rushdie as a target on his own,” he said.
“Even an avid consumer of Iranian propaganda would have some difficulty finding references to Rushdie compared to all the other, modern enemies designated by the regime.”