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Saturday, February 14, 1998 Published at 02:43 GMT


Death threat author says 'life goes on'
image: [ Rushdie: wants the EU to put pressure on Iran ]
Rushdie: wants the EU to put pressure on Iran

Salmon Rushdie - "They have not called the dogs off"
Britain, in its role as current president of the European Union, has again urged Iran to rescind the death threat against the British author, Salman Rushdie.

The renewed EU appeal marks the ninth anniversary of the death threat or fatwa by the late Ayatollah Khomeini, against the author.

Mr Rushdie is to meet the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, as part of the efforts to have the fatwa lifted.

The author has repeatedly sought official meetings with senior government figures in order to maintain pressure on Iran to lift the fatwa which issued by the late Ayatollah Khomeini.

[ image: Novel condemned as blasphemous]
Novel condemned as blasphemous
His novel The Satanic Verses was denounced by the Ayatollah as blasphemy in 1989. Last year an Iranian foundation offered a $2.5m (£1.6m) for Mr Rushdie's life.

The novel is a fictional account of how the Koran, the holy text of Islam, came into existence.

Mr Rushdie said that he lived with the death threat 24 hours a day.

"It's like trying to move with lead boots on," he said. But the author maintained that he refused to live as a fugitive.

'The defence of the unsayable'

Hear the complete interview (8'30)
Speaking on the BBC's Newsnight programme, Mr Rushdie called for protection for free speech of all kinds, even "filthy" racist abuse.

He said that the principle of free speech had to include "the defence of the unsayable".

"If you are going to defend the principle of free speech, not the things that are said ... it must begin at the point where someone says something you despise.

"While people are saying things you broadly agree with, it's no trick to defend their right to say so. I think it's more important to have a culture where things are out in the open and said, rather than under the carpet bubbling away.

"I don't have to prove my right to speak, you have to prove to me why I should not," he said.

EU against the fatwa

[ image: Cook: to meet Mr Rushdie in the next week]
Cook: to meet Mr Rushdie in the next week
Mr Rushdie said that he hoped that Britain's presidency of the European Union would give them the opportunity to "try and get this subject solved".

Mr Cook has issued a declaration repeating previous affirmations made by the European Union condemning the death threat.

He said the fatwa "remained null and void because it violated the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the principle of the sovereignty of states, who have responsibility for the protection of their nationals".

He said the European Union welcomed the new Iranian Government's stated commitment to respect the rule of law.

"The European Union hopes that this will take us towards the assurances that we need to remove the threat to Salman Rushdie's life," he said.

The Iranian attorney general has already said the fatwa is irrevocable.

Since the announcement of the fatwa, a Japanese translator of The Satanic Verses has been stabbed to death, an Italian translator injured in a knife attack and the book's Norwegian publisher has been shot.

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