The moment you say that any idea system is sacred, whether it’s a belief system or a secular ideology, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.
-Salman Rushdie, Do we have to fight the battle for the Enlightenment all over again?, 2005
In 1988, Salman Rushdie published his excellent magical realist novel The Satanic Verses. Muslims quickly accused Rushdie of blasphemy, and on February 14, 1989, Iran’s Ayatollah Kohemeini issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s murder.
Rushdie is still alive and well, but the book’s Japanese translater, Hitoshi Igarashi, was murdered on July 12, 1991 in his office at the University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.
Surprisingly, not only has no one ever been arrested for the murder, but the case was closed in 2006 without Japanese police even naming any suspects. As The Daily Beast noted in 2015, there have been persistent rumors about just how committed the Japanese police were to finding a suspect,
Igarashi’s murder remains unsolved, although clearly it was, at the very least, inspired and provoked by Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against Rushdie and his novel. A former CIA analyst and National Security Council staff member told The Daily Beast that many U.S. officials at the time believed the Iranians were responsible for Igarashi’s murder. Over the years, given Iran’s record, that belief has turned to a conviction among many in the intelligence community.
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In 2006 the 15-year statute of limitations on his murder expired. Hitoshi’s wife, Masako, was still crying out for justice, pressing the Japanese police not to give up on her husband’s case.
The impression then and now, however, is that the Japanese government—like President Kirchner in Argentina in response to the bombings in Buenos Aires—was content to let Igarashi’s murder slide, and sought no real justice for the man, because he was murdered by foreign agents and Japan was dependent on Iranian oil—the very same charge that Prosecutor Nisman was set to level against Kirchner last month Nisman before he was found dead.