The widow of the Orlando nightclub gunman knew about the attack ahead of time, prosecutors said Tuesday as she appeared in court to face charges of aiding and abetting her husband in the months before the rampage last June that left 49 people dead.
Noor Salman, 30, stood before a federal judge under tight security, looking downcast and bewildered. She did not enter a plea. When she was led back to jail, she locked eyes with her tearful uncle, AP reported.
“She knew he was going to conduct the attack,” federal prosecutor Roger Handberg told the judge. Handberg did not disclose any more details and would not comment after the 15-minute hearing, held in a courtroom packed with security officers.
Outside court, Salman’s uncle Al Salman said his niece was innocent and did nothing to help her husband, Omar Mateen, plan the June 12 attack on the Pulse, a gay nightclub in Florida.
“She’s a very soft and sweet girl,” Salman said. “She would not hurt a fly.”
“I know she’s innocent — 100 percent,” he added to NBC. “She’s innocent, simple person. “
Of Mateen, he described him as an “abuser” and a “controlling person.”
In an indictment unsealed Monday, she was accused of aiding and abetting Mateen in providing material support and resources to the Islamic State group between April and June of last year. She was also charged with obstruction, accused of misleading and lying to police and the FBI during their investigation. The charges carry up to life in prison.
The indictment gave no additional details on Salman’s actions.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina told the Orlando Weekly that the FBI took her into custody on “charges of aiding and abetting by providing material support to a terrorist organization and obstruction of justice.”
In a statement, he added: “I am glad to see that Omar Mateen’s wife has been charged with aiding her husband in the commission of the brutal attack on the Pulse nightclub.”
“Federal authorities have been working tirelessly on this case for more than seven months, and we are grateful that they have seen to it that some measure of justice will be served in this act of terror that has affected our community so deeply.”
“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. But today, there is some relief in knowing that someone will be held accountable for that horrific crime.”
During the standoff, Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a 911 call. He was killed in a shootout with SWAT officers. In addition to the 49 victims killed, 53 people were injured.
The couple lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, at the time of the rampage.
After repeated interrogation by the FBI, Salman was arrested Monday at a house she shared with her mother in Rodeo, a San Francisco suburb.
Linda Moreno, a Florida attorney who also represents Salman, said after Salman’s arrest that the widow “had no foreknowledge nor could she predict what Omar Mateen intended to do that tragic night.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.