Norway reopens Satanic Verses shooting case

William Nygaard was shot three times outside his home in 1993

Posted: November 27, 2010

Norwegian police, boosted by a sizable reward, have reopened an investigation into the 1993 attempted assassination of the Norwegian publisher of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.

William Nygaard, CEO of the Aschehoug publishing house, was shot three times outside his house in Oslo on Oct. 11, 1993. Though seriously injured, he recovered and says he's happy to hear the news.

Nygaard told Aftenposten newspaper that finding his attempted murderer was important "primarily to defend Norwegian values of freedom of expression."


A reward of 500,000 kroner (about $83,000 Cdn) is being jointly offered by Aschehoug and the Norwegian Publishers' Association for any new information that would lead to an arrest.

Christian Opsahl from the association called the attack "an open wound which will not heal until the case is closed."

In 1989, a fatwa was issued against Rushdie by Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, who called on Muslims to execute the writer following the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses, seen as blasphemous because of its depiction of the Prophet.

That resulted in Rushdie going into hiding for nine years, under the constant protection of Scotland Yard's Special Branch. The Iranian leadership softened its position in 1998, allowing Rushdie to walk freely in public once more.

Investigative book reopens case

The reopening of Nygaard's case follows the September publication of  Who Shot William Nygaard? by journalist Odd Isungset, who has followed the story for 17 years.

'[It's] the only terror attack on Norwegian soil since WW II.' —Odd Isungset

In the book, Isungset outlines details of the case and the suspects as well as the problems that beset the original investigation. Isungset points fingers at a suspect who bought a one-way ticket to Iran in cash the day after the attack.


"This is a really important case — the only terror attack on Norwegian soil since World War II," Isungset told the Guardian newspaper.

Nygaard wasn't the only person connected with The Satanic Verses who got attacked. In 1991, the Japanese translator of the book, Hitoshi Igarashi, was killed and the Italian translator, Ettore Caprioli was also attacked. No one has been arrested in those cases either.

Rushdie recently announced he was working on a memoir that would open up the decade he had to go into hiding, set for release in 2011.

The 66-year-old author says he will also discuss how The Satanic Verses  came to be.

"The thing that [was] worse about it [was] the loss of spontaneity," said Rushdie in a recent CNN interview concerning his life underground.