The U.S. Attorney’s Office is reportedly investigating whether the man accused of stabbing British author Salman Rushdie last year had ties to an Iranian terrorist group.
Hadi Matar was arrested on August 12, 2022, for allegedly stabbing Rushdie, the award-winning author whose 1988 novel The Satanic Verses earned him a fatwa from Iran, on stage at a Chautauqua Institution festival in New York. The media largely portrayed Matar as a "lone wolf," but federal prosecutors have launched a broader investigation into the son of Lebanese immigrants' possible ties to Hezbollah, an Islamist militant group, or the Iranian regime, according to Chautauqua County’s district attorney Jason Schmidt, whose office is prosecuting Matar's case. Matar pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and attempted murder and will stand trial early next year.
The broadened investigation, which Schmidt told Semafor was "outside my paygrade," may have political implications for President Joe Biden's Iran nuclear deal, which analysts have said will bring Tehran even "closer to the nuclear threshold."
"I do think it does have political considerations and recognizing, for instance, that the Biden government is trying to negotiate with Iran now to kind of bring them back into a nuclear treaty," Schmidt said. "I understand that there’s a lot of considerations here that, you know, that are way outside my paygrade."
At the time of his arrest, Matar was carrying a fake driver's license displaying the name of a top Hezbollah commander. According to his mother, Matar visited his father in Lebanon in 2018 and "came back a totally changed person, deeply religious in the Shiite Muslim faith, and a supporter of Iran’s Islamic revolution." Federal prosecutors are investigating whether the Iranian-backed militia Hezbollah trained or radicalized Matar during that trip, according to Semafor.
Iran justified the attack but denied any involvement in it. "Regarding the attack against Salman Rushdie in America, we don't consider anyone deserving reproach, blame or even condemnation, except for [Rushdie] himself and his supporters," Nasser Kanaani, the spokesman of Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said.