According to a report, federal prosecutors are investigating whether the Islamic fanatic accused of repeatedly stabbing Salman Rushdie on stage over the past year had ties to foreign governments or terrorist groups.
Jason Schmidt, the Chautauqua County district attorney overseeing New York State’s case against 25-year-old Hadi Matar, said semaphore that the US Attorney’s Office has opened a separate investigation into the suspect’s possible links to international organizations.
Matar, the son of Lebanese immigrants living in New Jersey, has pleaded not guilty to assault and attempted murder charges in the maniacal attack on the famous British-American author at a literary festival in upstate New York last August.
The 75-year-old Rushdie, who was the target of a notorious Islamic death sentence in 1989 for his book The Satanic Verses, was blind in his right eye.
Schmidt said his office is finalizing preparations for Matar’s trial, which could begin as early as next year.
But the Justice Department’s concern, which Schmidt says is outside of his remit and above his “pay grade,” is whether Matar, who is known to have spent some time in Lebanon, may be radicalized or trained by the Islamist militant group Hezbollah became.
When he was arrested on August 12, 2022, Matar was found to be carrying a fake driver’s license with the name of a senior Hezbollah commander in his possession.
“In some areas we kind of have to narrow ourselves down to the four corners of the charges we’re bringing, which are essentially a charge of ‘attempted second-degree murder.'” That’s our top number,” Schmidt told the outlet . “That takes us away from some of the underlying motivations that went into the intent. Some of that has been taken away from us in our jurisdiction, so to speak, and that’s something the US Attorney’s Office has been investigating and is looking into.”
The DOJ did not immediately respond to a Post request for comment Friday.
One of the main questions raised by the attack was whether Matar was a lone fighter or was acting on behalf of Hezbollah or the Iranian regime.
Matar’s mother, Silvana Fardos, has told the New York Times that her son traveled to Lebanon in 2018 and likely stayed with his father in the city of Yaroun, known to be controlled by Hezbollah.
Matar returned from that trip a Shia zealot committed to Iran’s Islamic revolution, according to his mother, who publicly disowned him after the Rushdie attack.
The famous victim – and Indian-born Booker Prize winner – spent years under police protection after Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, in 1989 calling for his death for allegedly profaning the novel The Satanic Verses . ”
Almost a decade later, the Iranian government backed out of the order and said it would not support any attempt to kill Rushdie, but the fatwa was never officially revoked.
In an exclusive prison interview with The Post just days after his arrest, Matar hailed the late Khomeini as a “great human being” but declined to say whether his fatwa against Rushdie inspired him.
The suspect denied being in contact with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and said he acted alone when he decided to go to Chautauqua after encountering a tweet about Rushdie’s upcoming visit.
“I don’t like the person. I don’t think he’s a very good person,” he said of the Midnight’s Children writer. “I do not like him. I don’t particularly like him. He is someone who has attacked Islam, he has attacked their beliefs, belief systems.”
Tehran denied any involvement in last year’s near-fatal attack on Rushdie, but said: “Regarding the attack on Salman Rushdie in America, we believe that no one deserves blame, blame or even condemnation except…” [Rushdie] himself and his supporters.”
Rushdie, who also suffered nerve damage to his hand, has not blamed any foreigner for the stabbing attack that nearly took his life.
Asked about Matar’s upcoming trial in July, Rushdie told BBC News he wasn’t sure he could “take the trouble” to face him in court.