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US Announces New Sanctions on Iran for Bounty on Rushdie

FILE - Author Salman Rushdie appears during the Mississippi Book Festival in Jackson, Miss., on Aug. 18, 2018.
FILE - Author Salman Rushdie appears during the Mississippi Book Festival in Jackson, Miss., on Aug. 18, 2018.

The U.S State and Treasury departments announced Friday the United States is imposing economic sanctions on the Iran-based 15 Khordad Foundation for issuing a multimillion-dollar bounty on author Salman Rushdie, which led to an attack on him in August.

In 1989, following the publication of Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses, which some Muslims found blasphemous, then-Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the author’s death, leading to attacks on Rushdie and those associated with him.

The fatwa was reaffirmed by Iran’s current Supreme Leader in 2017 and was republished by Iranian state-controlled media as recently as August 2022.

In a statement, the U.S. Treasury Department said the 15 Khordad Foundation has maintained the bounty on Rushdie and as recently as 2012 increased its bounty on the author from $2.7 million to $3.3 million. They said the organization has advertised its offer, claiming the entire sum would be given immediately to anyone who assassinated Rushdie.

In the statement, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson said, “The United States will not waver in its determination to stand up to threats posed by Iranian authorities against the universal rights of freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, and freedom of the press.”

Rushdie, 75, was attacked August 12 as he prepared to speak in a lecture hall in Chautauqua, New York, outside the city of Buffalo. He was stabbed in the face, neck and torso and was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he underwent several surgeries.

In a simultaneous statement Friday, the U.S. State Department said the original fatwa was designed to incite terrorism and violence. It went on to say, “The United States condemns such incitement and the attack on Rushdie in the strongest terms as a blatant assault on freedom of speech and an act of terrorism. Today’s action is another clear signal that we will not stand by in the face of it.”

The author’s agent said he lost sight in one eye and lost the use of one hand as a result of the attack. A 24-year-old New Jersey resident, Hadi Matar, was arrested and charged with attempted murder and assault in connection with the attack.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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