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Judge won’t issue ‘global protection order’ for witnesses in Chautauqua stabbing

Hadi Matar, 24, second from right, listens as his public defense attorney Nathaniel Barone, center, addresses the judge while being arraigned in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, NY., Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

MAYVILLE — Although some names may be withheld from the New Jersey resident accused of stabbing famed author Salman Rushdie a month ago, it’s unlikely all the names will be withheld.

On Friday, Hadi Matar was back in Chautauqua County Court. District Attorney Jason Schmidt had previously requested a protection order be in place for witnesses in the trial for Matar. That order would prevent Matar knowing the names of the individuals who will be testifying until just before the trial commences.

Schmidt said Friday that he is still going through the more than 30,000 pieces of evidence and hasn’t identified everyone who would be needed for the prosecution.

“We need that protective order first and then we can know in what matter we can disclose what we have,” he said.

But even so, Foley said he isn’t going to issue a protection order for everyone.

“I’m not going to enter a global protective order, saying every witness in the world that’s potentially going to be called in this case isn’t going to be disclosed to Mr. Matar. I don’t think that’s appropriate,” he said.

Before making that statement, Foley did meet privately in chambers with Schmidt and Matar’s attorney, Public Defender Nathaniel Barone.

Earlier in the week, Schmidt said he is concerned about the fatwa that was issued in 1989 and the $3 million bounty on Rushdie’s life, saying that the bounty has not been lifted and could still be used by criminals who want to protect Matar.

Barone argued that the prosecution has shown no evidence for this possibility.

“This is based on speculation, nothing more. It’s pure conjecture,” he said.

In court, Foley had said he wanted specifics as to why the prosecution should be permitted to withhold the names and details as to why exposing their names could lead to them being threatened or harmed.

For now, he ordered the prosecution to give names of potential witnesses to Matar’s attorneys, but the attorneys are not permitted to share that information with their client.

Foley had Matar stand and explained to him his temporary decision. Matar said he understood and sat back down once told to do so by the judge.

Foley has called for a hearing on Wednesday afternoon. At that time, he said he will hear arguments from Schmidt as to why specific witnesses’ names should be withheld from Matar.

Schmidt has also asked for a 70-day extension to provide the defense the evidence to be used in the case. Foley is expected to make a decision on that on Wednesday as well.

See the full story in The Post-Journal and OBSERVER weekend editions in print and on line.

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