BEIRUT – The father of a man charged with attempting to murder novelist Salman Rushdie has locked himself in at his home in southern Lebanon and is refusing to speak to anyone, town mayor Ali Tehfe said on Sunday.
The suspect in Friday’s attack in New York state has been identified by police as 24-year-old Hadi Matar from New Jersey. He has pleaded not guilty. Matar is originally Lebanese and his family comes from the south Lebanon town of Yaroun.
Tehfe said the parents emigrated to the United States and Matar was born and raised there, but his father returned to Lebanon several years ago.
“His father is in the country now but he has locked himself in and is not accepting to give any kind of statement to anyone. We tried with him, we sent people, we went and knocked the door but he is not agreeing to speak to anyone,” Tehfe told Reuters.
An official from the Iran-backed Lebanese armed group Hezbollah said on Saturday the group had no additional information on the attack on Rushdie.
“We don’t know anything about this subject so we will not comment,” the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Hezbollah is backed by Iran, whose previous supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in 1989 pronounced a fatwa, or religious edict, calling upon Muslims to kill Rushdie for blasphemy.
When asked if Matar or his parents were affiliated with or supported Hezbollah, Tehfe said he had “no information at all” on the political views of the parents or Matar.
Indian-born Rushdie, 75, was off a ventilator and his condition was improving, his agent and a son said on Sunday.
(Reporting by Timour Azhari; Editing by Nick Macfie)