OAKLAND, Calif. — Noor Salman, the wife of Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen, “would have run away” had she known her husband intended to carry out a massacre in the name of the Islamic State, her uncle said Tuesday, as his niece appeared in court for the first time on charges that she aided and abetted the attack.
Al Salman, Noor Salman’s uncle, said his niece, whom he helped raise, was innocent of the allegations against her and did not fully understand what was happening. Noor Salman, he said, was mainly concerned with the well-being of her and Mateen’s young son.
“I understand this is a big crime that’s happening, but don’t sacrifice an innocent person,” Al Salman told reporters outside the hearing. “She would not hurt anybody. She don’t like to see anybody get hurt. I know that the justice will prevail and is going to show that she is innocent.”
Noor Salman, 30, was arrested early Monday morning at a residence in Rodeo, Calif., and charged with aiding and abetting terrorism and obstructing justice. She appeared in federal district court here for the first time Tuesday, and federal prosecutors released the formal two-count indictment against her.
Salman looked ragged and confused at the brief court appearance. At certain points, as the prosecution read the charges, she seemed to be shaking. Al Salman said that when FBI agents came to arrest her, she had been sleeping.
Federal prosecutors have not revealed precisely what cause they have to believe Salman committed the federal crimes with which she is charged. The indictment, which also seeks forfeiture of $30,500, does not provide specific information. Salman appeared in court in Oakland because she was arrested in California; the indictment is out of the Middle District of Florida, and she will eventually be transferred for court proceedings there.
In a previous interview with the New York Times, Salman claimed she was “unaware of everything” and was sorry for what happened.
Mateen, 29, was killed by police in the June attack that left 49 people dead inside Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. Officials have said he appeared to have been radicalized online and professed allegiance to the Islamic State during the massacre. Since the attack, FBI agents have been exploring his wife’s level of knowledge and involvement and had interviewed her at length.
A law enforcement official had previously told The Washington Post that Salman was with her husband on at least one trip to the club before the attack, and at one point went with him to buy ammunition. Salman told the Times that she did not know the purpose of their trip to Orlando and that she thought nothing was suspicious about Mateen’s purchase of ammunition. She told the Times that when her husband told her he would not be home for dinner the afternoon before the attack, she asked him not to go. Mateen left anyway, claiming he had to go see a friend.
Salman is expected in federal court Wednesday for a status hearing.
Zapotosky reported from Washington.