Salman Rushdie off ventilator after stabbing -agent

STORY: Salman Rushdie's agent on Sunday said the acclaimed author was off a ventilator and that his condition is improving, after an attacker repeatedly stabbed him at an event in New York state.

In an email to Reuters, Rushdie's agent said: "He's off the ventilator, so the road to recovery has begun. It will be long; the injuries are severe, but his condition is headed in the right direction."

After being airlifted to a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, Rushdie was put on a ventilator following hours of surgery and was unable to speak as of Friday evening.

Rushdie's agent also said the 75-year-old would likely lose an eye and had nerve damage in his arm and wounds to his liver.

Rushdie was set to deliver a lecture on artistic freedom in western New York when police say a man rushed the stage and stabbed him.

The suspect, 24-year-old Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault at a court appearance on Saturday.

Rushdie, who was born into an Indian Muslim family, has lived with a bounty on his head since 1989, when the supreme leader of Iran urged Muslims to kill him over his novel "The Satanic Verses," which some Muslims said contained blasphemous passages.

Authorities in Iran have made no public comment about the attack, but hardline state media outlets have celebrated the stabbing with headlines including "Satan has been blinded" and some Iranians voiced support online for the stabbing.

However, many other Iranians expressed their sympathies for Rushdie, posting on social media about their anger at the Islamic Republic's clerical rulers.

In a statement posted on Twitter, one of Rushdie's sons said his father was able to say a few words after getting off the ventilator, adding "Though his life changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty & defiant sense of humor remains intact."