Widow of Pulse nightclub shooter found not guilty of supporting foreign terrorism

Nation/World

Noor Salman is the widow of the Pulse nightclub gunman, who is accused of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization and obstruction of justice related to the 2016 Orlando massacre.

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CNN— A verdict has been reached in the trial of Noor Salman, the widow of the Pulse nightclub gunman, who is accused of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization and obstruction of justice related to the 2016 Orlando massacre.

 Jurors began deliberating the federal case Wednesday afternoon.

Salman, 31, was arrested in January 2017, months after her husband, Omar Mateen, killed 49 people and injured more than 50 others when he opened fire the prior June at Pulse nightclub. Mateen was killed by police who responded to the attack.

“This case is about what she knew and what she did,” Assistant US Attorney Sara Sweeney said. “The defendant didn’t pull the trigger that night, but she did serve as a green light for her husband.”

Salman’s attorneys argued that their client was not an accomplice but a simple-minded victim of her husband’s infidelity and lies.

“She doesn’t go to the mosque, she searches for Hello Kitty on her website,” defense attorney Charles Swift said in his closing argument. “We’re supposed to believe she had long conversations with Omar Mateen about jihads?”

Salman did not testify during the trial. If she is convicted on the terror charge, she could face life in prison.

‘Mother, not a monster’

Moreno countered that Salman was a “simple young mother” with a low IQ who was the victim not only of Mateen’s abuse and infidelity, but also of manipulative FBI interrogators who coerced her into confessing things that are “provably false.”

“Omar Mateen is a monster. Noor Salman is a mother, not a monster. Her only sin is she married a monster,” Moreno told jurors. Salman was the mother of Mateen’s only son.

Saying there is “no evidence (Salman) encouraged Mateen and his pathology,” Moreno also took aim at FBI interrogators, accusing them of coercing Salman into “adopting their narrative” and failing to record her statements. For instance, the attorney said, Salman confessed to visiting Pulse with Mateen before the shooting, when there is evidence proving that never happened.

Salman was always cooperative with federal agents, even checking in with them from Mississippi and California when there was no requirement she do so, the attorney claimed.

“The FBI got Noor to adopt their own written statements after 11 hours of interrogation,” Moreno said. “She consented to have her home searched and to a polygraph. She agreed to be polygraphed and the FBI didn’t do it. Ask yourself why.”

‘Severely abused woman’

In that same vein, Moreno said the defense will also present a Father’s Day card that Salman bought for Mateen at least a week before the shooting. The prosecution contended that this was part of a coverup.

“In my expert opinion, Noor Salman is a severely abused woman who was in realistic fear for her life,” wrote Jacquelyn Campbell, a nurse who evaluated Salman as an expert in domestic violence, in a court document.

One of her attorneys has said that Salman suffers post-traumatic stress disorder because of years of physical and mental abuse, CNN affiliate WKMG reported.

She could not predict what Mateen intended to do, her attorneys claim, and they have tried to convince a judge that the statements she made to investigators immediately after the shooting were obtained unlawfully. Prosecutors have argued that Salman gave her statements voluntarily, according to CNN affiliates.

A judge recently ruled Salman’s statements to the FBI are admissible.

Trial 2 miles from club

The judge also recently decided Mateen’s calls to authorities during the massacre will be allowed. While on the phone with a police negotiator during the night, Mateen said he was a soldier of ISIS.

The courtroom is open to survivors, victims’ families and members of the public, but no cameras are allowed. Victims’ families are watching in a separate space from the overflow room holding the media.

Salman grew up in Rodeo, California, after her parents emigrated from the West Bank in 1985, according to The New York Times. She told the Times that she met Mateen on a dating site in 2011 and the couple married later that year.

The couple and their son, who was 3 at the time of the massacre, lived about two hours from Orlando in Fort Pierce, Florida. Salman was Mateen’s second wife.

The trial is being held in Orlando about 2 miles from the site of the shooting, and it’s expected to last about three weeks.

 

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