The man accused of stabbing Salman Rushdie stated that he respected Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini but would not say if his attack was inspired by the fatwa against the author issued by the former Iranian leader, a New York Post interview published on Wednesday said.
Hadi Matar also told the Post he had only “read a couple pages” of Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses and that a tweet in the winter announcing the author's visit to the Chautauqua Institution gave him the idea to go there.
Rushdie was set to deliver a lecture on artistic freedom at the western New York venue when police say Mr Matar, 24, rushed the stage and stabbed the Indian-born writer last Friday.
The author has lived with a bounty on his head since The Satanic Verses was published in 1988. Rushdie's allegedly blasphemous statements in the book prompted Khomeini to issue a fatwa calling on Muslims to kill him.
“I respect the Ayatollah. I think he's a great person. That's as far as I will say about that,” the Post quoted Mr Matar as saying in a video interview from the Chautauqua County Jail.
“I don't like him very much,” Mr Matar said of Rushdie.
“He's someone who attacked Islam, he attacked their beliefs, the belief systems,” he told the Post.
Mr Matar denied being in contact with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Post reported.
During a court appearance on Saturday, Mr Matar, of Fairview, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault at a court appearance, Ned Barone, the Chautauqua County chief public defender, told Reuters.
Mr Matar also told the Post he had taken a bus to Buffalo, New York, the day before the attack and then took a Lyft ride to Chautauqua.
“I was hanging around, pretty much. Not doing anything in particular, just walking around,” he told the Post. He added that he had slept on the grass on Thursday night.
“I was just outside the whole time,” the paper quoted him as saying.