A pro-Iranian group released a photograph of three American hostages Thursday and threatened retaliation for the publication of "The Satanic Verses" by British author Salman Rushdie.
It was the first time the pro-Iranian extremists have linked the plight of foreign hostages held in Lebanon to the controversial book.In a two-page statement delivered to a Western news agency and accompanied by a photograph of the three Americans, the Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine threatened to take revenge for the novel but did not say how.
"Let American imperialism and international Zionism know that by their defending of the ugly contents of `The Satanic Verses' (they) have linked the fate of their interests to the destiny of the so-called Indian writer," the statement said. Rushdie is an Indian-born Briton.
"We announce that we will carry out a revenge against all institutions that blasphemed Islam and great prophets," it said.
Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, the spiritual leader of the Iranian-inspired Hezbollah, the group believed to be an umbrella for the Islamic Jihad, charged Wednesday that there was "Jewish backing of the book, its funding and distribution."
With the two-page, hand-written statement was a Polaroid photograph showing American hostages Alann Steen, 49, Jesse Turner, 39, and Robert Polhill, 52.
The three captives appeared to have lost weight in captivity and all were bearded. They were sitting on a couch with a white wall in the background.
Turner and Polhill looked grim-faced, while Steen showed a trace of a smile. All three were dressed in clean winter clothes.
Meanwhile, writers famous and obscure rallied throughout the United States in support of Rushdie, with some daring Iran to kill them along with the author of "The Satanic Verses." And two large book chains reversed a decision to remove the novel.
Some of the nation's most prominent authors marched on the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York and read excerpts from Rushdie's book.
Rallies or readings also were held Wednesday in Washington, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Boston.
At the New York reading, Norman Mailer said authors should "stand in his place" if Rushdie is killed - a challenge to Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to kill them all.
"Join with me in such a vow, and we are relatively safe," Mailer told the gathering. "At least, we are safer to a considerable degree, and can feel honorable to ourselves. We will have struck a real blow for freedom."
In West Germany, a prominent publishing house reversed itself, saying it will publish the German-language edition of "The Satanic Verses." The Kiepenheuer und Witsch publishing house of Cologne said Rushdie's novel will appear some time in the fall.
Gunmen disguised as policemen snatched the three American professors from the compound of the Beirut University College in Moslem west Beirut Jan. 24, 1987.
Steen worked as a professor of communications at the university, while Turner taught mathematics and Polhill was a professor of business.
Moslems say Rushdie's book is blasphemous, and the 41-year-old Rushdie went into hiding last week after Khomeini called on Moslems worldwide to "execute" him.
"The Satanic Verses" is a surrealistic novel with a dream sequence that implies the prophet Mohammed may have written the holy Moslem Koran himself, rather than as God dictated it to him.
Moslem outrage over the book first sparked rioting in Pakistan and India, then spread to Iran, where Khomeini unleashed a resurgence of anti-American and anti-British sentiment at a time when some analysts saw Iran poised to pursue better relations with the West.
An Iranian charity agency last week offered to pay nearly $3 million to any Iranian who carried out the assassination order and $1 million to any foreigner. The offer was later increased by another $3 million.