OAKLAND (AP) – The widow of the Orlando nightclub gunman has been charged with helping her husband in the months leading up to the June massacre that left 49 people dead, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday.
Noor Salman, 30, appeared in federal court in Oakland Tuesday morning, a day after her arrest a day earlier on the Florida charges.
Salman came into court wearing a baggy yellow t-shirt and spoke politely to the judge.
Federal prosecutors told the judge Salman knew her husband was planning an attack and — after he killed 49 people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando — prosecutors say she lied to Florida police about what she knew.
At times, her eyes scanned the courtroom audience, searching for the one person she knew was there for support: her uncle, Al Salman.
“The right person who did this crime needs to pay for it, but don’t take it out on innocent person,” said Salman outside the courtroom. “She had no idea.”
Salman’s attorney said at a brief court hearing that he’ll seek her release from jail pending trial.
A judge scheduled another hearing Wednesday to formally appoint a lawyer to represent Salman, discuss transporting her to Florida to face federal charges and her possible release pending trial.
The two-count indictment accuses her of knowingly aiding and abetting her husband, Omar Mateen, in providing material support and resources to the Islamic State group between April and June of last year. It also says she knowingly misled police and the FBI after June 12 attack at the Pulse nightclub. The charging document does not give additional details on Salman’s actions.
Noor is accused of going with her husband to buy massive amounts of ammunition and casing the club before the attack as well as Disneyland, another potential target.
But her uncle says Noor knew nothing of his plans and that she was a victim of Omar Mateen.
“He’s abuser and controlling person,” said Al Salman.
Salman’s uncle pointed to the text messages the night of the shooting as proof she was in the dark…
“She either call him or text him. He respond. He said, ‘Don’t you see the news?’ She said no. He said, ‘I love you babe,’ and hang up. That’s all she knows,” said her uncle.
Noor was arrested at her mother’s house in Rodeo Monday, where she lived with the 4-year-old son she shared with Omar Mateen.
“She loved her son so much,” said her uncle. “She is willing to sacrifice so much just to stay with her son.”
Federal attorneys want the case prosecuted in Orlando. She will likely be extradited there soon.
If convicted, Noor Salman could face life in prison.
Salman is from the San Francisco Bay Area and in the aftermath of the Orlando attack that also left her husband dead she returned here with their son, whose name she has since sought to change. She was repeatedly questioned by FBI investigators over whether she had any knowledge of her husband’s plans.
Her attorney Linda Moreno said after her arrest that she “had no foreknowledge nor could she predict what Omar Mateen intended to do that tragic night.”
Salman told The New York Times in an interview published in November that she knew her husband had watched jihadist videos but was “unaware of everything” regarding his intent to shoot up the club. Salman also said he had physically abused her, which her attorney reiterated Monday.
“Noor has told her story of abuse at his hands,” Moreno said. “We believe it is misguided and wrong to prosecute her and that it dishonors the memories of the victims to punish an innocent person.”
The San Francisco office of the FBI said Salman was taken into custody Monday morning in Rodeo, which is the small Bay Area community where she grew up and where her family lives. Jail records, however, say she was arrested about 30 miles away in Dublin. The reason for the discrepancy wasn’t clear.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a Monday interview with MSNBC that “from the beginning, we were going to look at every aspect of this, of every aspect of this shooter’s life to determine not just why did he take these actions – but who else knew about them? Was anyone else involved?”
Salman met Mateen online and the two married in 2011.
They lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, at the time of the shooting.
Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in a 911 call during the three-hour standoff that ended in his death. Forty nine patrons were killed and another 53 were hospitalized.
“Nothing can erase the pain we all feel about the senseless and brutal murders of 49 of our neighbors, friends, family members and loved ones,” Orlando Police Chief John Mina said Monday. “But today, there is some relief in knowing that someone will be held accountable for that horrific crime.”
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