- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The widow of Orlando gunman Omar Mateen appeared in court for the first time Tuesday to face federal charges related to her husband’s deadly rampage last summer at the Pulse nightclub.

A criminal indictment unsealed Tuesday charges Noor Salman with two federal crimes — aiding and abetting her husband in his support of a terrorist organization, and obstruction of justice.

The indictment says Ms. Salman, who was arrested Monday in California, “did knowingly aid and abet Omar Mateen’s attempted provision and provision of ‘material support or resources’” to the Islamic State ahead of the June 12 attack at the gay nightclub. Mateen opened fire inside Pulse, killing 49 people and injuring 53 others.

The document indicates Ms. Salman aided her husband as far back as at least April, but specific allegations were not spelled out in court documents or during her brief appearance before a federal judge in Oakland, California.

She also is charged with obstruction of justice. The indictment states that on the day of the shooting, she “did knowingly mislead officers of the Fort Pierce, Florida, Police Department and Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation” in order to prevent them from communicating information about her husband’s attack on the nightclub to other government law enforcement officials.

In court Tuesday, Ms. Salman appeared disheveled and hardly spoke. She did not enter a plea, and her arraignment was pushed back to Wednesday, when her Florida-based attorney was expected to arrive.

Outside the courthouse, her uncle Al Salman came to her defense, saying the 30-year-old mother is an “innocent person” and knew nothing about her husband’s plans.

“She doesn’t know what was going on. She is a very simple person,” said Mr. Salman, noting the physical abuse his niece suffered at the hands of her husband. “If she knew what that crazy guy would do, she wouldn’t be here. She would take her son and run away from him.”

The couple, who married in 2011, lived in Fort Pierce. After the incident, Ms. Salman moved to California with her 4-year-old son to live with relatives.

In the days after the massacre, investigators sought to find out whether others were involved in carrying out or planning the attack, and focused on learning what Ms. Salman knew about her husband’s plans. She is the only person authorities have arrested in connection with the crime.

Ms. Salman, who first spoke about the incident in a November interview with The New York Times, previously said she had known that her husband watched jihadi videos and had accompanied him to purchase firearms ammunition, but that she was not aware of his plans to attack the nightclub.

Holding frightened clubgoers hostage inside the club during a three-hour standoff with police, Mateen — a 29-year-old American-born Muslim — pledged allegiance to the Islamic State as he spoke by phone with a hostage negotiator.

He also reportedly exchanged text messages with his wife — writing her to ask whether she had seen what was happening. After she said she had not, he wrote in a final text message to her, “I love you babe.” Mateen was killed in an exchange of gunfire with officers when they stormed the club.

Linda Moreno, a Florida-based lawyer who said she represents Ms. Salman, issued a statement Monday saying that her client “had no foreknowledge nor could she predict what Omar Mateen intended to do that tragic night.”

Ms. Salman will return to the Oakland courthouse Wednesday. She is expected to be extradited to Florida to face the charges and could face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

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