In her first appearance in federal court on charges of knowingly aiding and abetting her husband’s rampage at Pulse nightclub, Noor Salman didn’t say much — but outside the courtroom, her uncle staunchly defended her innocence.
“I know she’s innocent,” Al Salman told a crowd of reporters. “We have a justice system here, and when they look at everything, they know she’s going to be free.”
Salman, 30, and her young son moved from the couple’s home in Fort Pierce to her family’s home in Northern California after her husband, Omar Mateen, opened fire in a crowded Orlando club and killed 49 people. She was arrested at her home on Monday and appeared in federal court in Oakland, California, on Tuesday morning. At some point, she will be brought to Florida to face the charges.
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Since the June 12 attack, Salman has denied knowing about Mateen’s intentions, but admitted to law enforcement that she drove with him on a trip to Orlando, where they visited the club, and to Wal-Mart to pick up ammunition. She told The New York Times she knew her husband watched jihadist videos, but thought the FBI cleared him.
In her 12-hour interview with the FBI immediately after the shooting, Salman told authorities that Mateen discussed the plot, including Pulse as a possible target, during a family trip to Disney World in April, sources told the Miami Herald at the time.
In an indictment released Tuesday, prosecutors said Salman helped her husband starting as early as April and “did knowingly aid and abet Omar Mateen’s attempted provision and provision of ‘material support or resources’... including personnel and services, to a designated foreign terrorist organization, namely the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.” The bare bones indictment didn’t explain what led prosecutors to file the charge more than seven months after the shooting.
Prosecutors stopped short of calling Salman a co-conspirator.
To convict her of aiding the husband’s material-support plot, prosecutors must prove that the wife knew Mateen was going to shoot up the club in the name of ISIS — as he declared during the 911 negotiation calls — rather than as a hate crime or a fit of violent mental illness.
Authorities also charged her with obstruction of justice, claiming that she misled FBI agents during the investigation.
Salman’s attorney, Tampa-based Linda Moreno, repeated that her client had no knowledge of her husband’s deadly plans and said she was a victim of domestic abuse — both physical and emotional.
“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.”
If she is convicted, the government will seize all her assets relating to the crime, which the indictment pegs at $30,500.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.