Salman Rushdie off ventilator and condition improving, agent says

"He's off the ventilator, so the road to recovery has begun," his agent, Andrew Wylie, wrote in an email to Reuters.

Author Salman Rushdie arrives at the High Court to settle a libel action brought against Ron Evans local media reported, in London August 26, 2008.  (photo credit: REUTERS/LUKE MACGREGOR/FILE PHOTO)
Author Salman Rushdie arrives at the High Court to settle a libel action brought against Ron Evans local media reported, in London August 26, 2008.
(photo credit: REUTERS/LUKE MACGREGOR/FILE PHOTO)

Salman Rushdie, the acclaimed author who was hospitalized on Friday with serious injuries after being repeatedly stabbed at a public appearance in New York state, is off a ventilator and his condition is improving, his agent said on Sunday.

"He's off the ventilator, so the road to recovery has begun," his agent, Andrew Wylie, wrote in an email to Reuters. "It will be long; the injuries are severe, but his condition is headed in the right direction."

Rushdie, 75, was set to deliver a lecture on artistic freedom at Chautauqua Institution in western New York when police say a 24-year-old man rushed the stage and stabbed the Indian-born writer, who has lived with a bounty on his head since his 1988 novel "The Satanic Verses" prompted Iran to urge Muslims to kill him.

The suspect, Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault at a court appearance on Saturday, his court-appointed lawyer, Nathaniel Barone, told Reuters.

Matar was the son of a man from Yaroun in southern Lebanon, according to Ali Tehfe, the town's mayor. Matar's parents emigrated to the United States, where he was born and raised, the mayor told Reuters, adding he had no information on their political views.

 A New Jersey police officer and a plain-clothed police officer exit the building where alleged attacker of Salman Rushdie, Hadi Matar, lives in Fairview, New Jersey, US, August 12, 2022. (credit: EDUARDO MUNOZ / REUTERS) A New Jersey police officer and a plain-clothed police officer exit the building where alleged attacker of Salman Rushdie, Hadi Matar, lives in Fairview, New Jersey, US, August 12, 2022. (credit: EDUARDO MUNOZ / REUTERS)

Following hours of surgery, Rushdie had been put on a ventilator and was unable to speak as of Friday evening, Wylie said in a prior update on the novelist's condition, adding that he was likely to lose an eye and had nerve damage in his arm and wounds to his liver.

Wylie did not provide further details on Rushdie's health in his email on Sunday.

Public reaction 

The stabbing was condemned by writers and politicians around the world as an assault on freedom of expression. In a statement on Saturday, President Joe Biden commended the "universal ideals" of truth, courage and resilience embodied by Rushdie and his work.

"These are the building blocks of any free and open society," Biden said.

Neither local nor federal authorities offered any additional details on the investigation on Saturday. Police said on Friday they had not established a motive for the attack.

An initial law enforcement review of Matar's social media accounts showed he was sympathetic to Shi'ite extremism and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), although no definitive links had been found, according to NBC New York.