DUBAI, United Arab Emirates ( Associated Press) — An Iranian government official denied on Monday that Tehran was involved in the attack on writer Salman Rushdie, though he justified the stabbing in the country’s first official statement on the attack.
Comments from Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani two days after the attack on Rushdie in New York. The author is already breathing without artificial aid and is on “the road to recovery,” according to his agent.
However, Iran has denied conducting other foreign campaigns against dissidents in the years following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, although prosecutors and Western governments have blamed Tehran for several such attacks.
“In the event of the Salman Rushdie attack in the United States, we do not believe that anyone except him and his followers deserves blame and accusations,” Kanani said. “No one has the right to accuse Iran in this regard.”
“In this regard, no one can blame the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said. “We believe that the insults committed and the support they received were an insult to followers of all religions.”
Rushdie, 75, was stabbed Friday during a ceremony in western New York. According to his agent, he suffered liver damage, as well as broken nerves in one arm and one eye. It was likely that he would lose the injured eye.
Her attacker, 24-year-old Hadi Matar, has pleaded not guilty through her lawyer to charges related to the assault.
The award-winning author has faced death threats for more than 30 years for his work “The Satanic Verses.” Iran’s late supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruzollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa, or Islamic fatwa, demanding his death. An Iranian foundation offered a reward of more than $3 million for the author’s murder.
Police in New York have yet to state a motive for the attack, though District Attorney Jason Schmidt noted a bounty on Rushdie in taking a position against setting bail for the suspect at a hearing on Saturday.
“Even if this court sets a bail of $1 million, we take a chance that the bail could be raised,” Schmidt said.
Matar was born in the United States to parents who, according to the city’s mayor, immigrated from Yarun, near the Israeli border, in southern Lebanon. Flags of Iranian-backed Shiite armed group Hezbollah and Iranian leaders wave in the city. Israel has bombed Hezbollah targets in the area in the past.
According to an official, municipal documents in Yarouan show that Matar has Lebanese citizenship and is registered as a Shia. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said Matar’s father still lives there but has been in seclusion since the attack.
Canaanite said Iran had “no other information other than what the US media reported.”
The spokesman said the West “condemns the offensive’s actions and instead glorifies the perpetrator’s actions against Islamic beliefs,” which he described as “a contradictory attitude.”
While not directly blaming Tehran for the attack, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement on Monday praised the criminal’s efforts to uphold freedom of expression and religion, specifically mentioning Iran.
“Iranian state institutions have encouraged violence against Rushdie for generations, and state media have celebrated the recent assassination attempt,” Blinken said. “It’s despicable.”
Associated Press reporter Bassem Mou in Beirut contributed to this report.
Jon Gambrell is on Twitter as www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.