Salman Rushdie: Witness gives account of New York attack

Henry Reese was injured during the attack on Salman Rushdie in New York (Picture: Getty/AP/BBC)

The interviewer who was sat on stage alongside Sir Salman Rushdie as he was brutally attacked has recounted the shocking moment.

Henry Reese was preparing to host a discussion with the novelist when an attacker armed with a knife rushed the stage and inflicted ‘life-changing’ injuries. 

The 75-year-old was airlifted to hospital for surgery, where he remains in recovery, and is likely to lose an eye.

Mr Reese, also 75, himself suffered facial injuries in the chaos which ensued at the Chautauqua Institution, in New York, on Friday.

Asked how he was doing after the incident, Mr Reese told the BBC: ‘I’m doing well, everything is proceeding – I’m doing quite well.

‘I think our concern is for Salman, and I mean that for himself, but also what he means in the world.

Asked what the incident meant for the importance of Sir Salman’s values, Mr Reese added: ‘There couldn’t be anything more vivid in its materialisation of our values.

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Members of the audience in New York rushed to save Sir Salman’s life (Picture: Twitter)

‘Our mission is to protect writers who are in sanctuary and to see Salman Rushdie assaulted for his life is unimaginably… it’s hard to describe what it is to see that happen in front of you.’

Mr Reese said his ambition is to one day finish the conversation they planned to have at the event on the topic of literary freedom in the US.

He continued: ‘That would be my ideal to do that, and to see that happen and to not be in any way impeded in doing what we set out to do.

‘To both show that these values will be defended and that they can be defended.’

Sir Salman’s family say he has retained his ‘usual feisty and defiant sense of humour’ despite sustaining horrific injuries including a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm.

Sir Salman has required security protection since the late 1980s (Picture: AFP)
Hadi Matar was captured at the scene but has pleaded not guilty to trying to kill Sir Salman (Picture: AP)

The Booker Prize winner is now breathing without the help of a ventilator.

Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old who was detained at the scene, has pleaded not guilty through his lawyer to charges stemming from the assault and is due to appear in a US court on Friday.

Sir Salman has endured decades of death threats and spent several years in hiding after the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses.

Partly inspired by the life of Muhammad, it was decried as blasphemous by the Iranian ayatollah and a fatwa instructing his followers to murder the writer was issued.

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