Noor Salman, the wife of terrorist Omar Mateen, who shot and murdered 49 people at the Orlando, Florida LGBT nightclub, Pulse, was arrested this past week and charged with aiding her husband in the ISIS inspired attack. Representing her in court at her hearing last Wednesday was Linda Moreno, an attorney who is notorious for handling the cases of numerous high profile terrorists. The fact that Salman hired Moreno to represent her speaks volumes about Salman and her case.
On June 12, 2016, Omar Mir Seddique Mateen entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and shot and killed 49 people and injured 53 more.
During the attack, Mateen placed a call to 911 to claim responsibility for the attack and pledge his allegiance to the leader of ISIS. He stated, “I pledge… allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State.” He, as well, expressed his solidarity with those who carried out the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and suicide bomber Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, who was a former acquaintance of Mateen and who attended the same mosque as Mateen.
Mateen and his wife, Noor Zahi Salman, became married in 2011. They had met through an Arab-oriented dating website earlier that year. Both had been married previously. Salman’s parents are Palestinian, and her first marriage had been arranged by her family in the West Bank.
Salman and her family have a very strong Palestinian identity. Before she erased her Facebook page, following the Orlando murders, she had, on top of it, a photo of herself, Mateen and their son draped in a Palestinian flag. Her uncle, Bassam Salman al-Taweel, who is photographed with her at her wedding, has material on his Facebook page labeling Israel “the enemy,” “a terrorist nation,” and “a war criminal.”
On January 16, 2017, seven months after the shooting, Mateen’s wife, Noor Salman, was taken into custody by the FBI in California, where many of her family member reside, and charged with “Aiding and Abetting by providing material support to a terrorist and Obstruction of Justice.”
This information was tweeted by Orlando Police Chief John Mina, who along with the info, stated his satisfaction with the arrest, writing, “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.” He further stated, “I knew within days that she had some part and aided Omar Mateen in this horrific tragedy and that some day, when the investigation was complete, she would be put behind bars and ultimately answer for this horrific tragedy.”
Salman had accompanied Mateen to different locations, allegedly to stake out potential targets, including the Pulse. Walt Disney World had contacted the FBI in April to report that the pair appeared to be conducting surveillance at their Downtown Disney (since renamed Disney Springs), which attracts large crowds and where security measures are not as tight as in Disney’s nearby theme parks.
Salman had told the FBI that, leading up to the attack, she had been aware that Mateen had purchased firearms and that she was with Mateen when Mateen went to buy ammunition. She said that Mateen had watched jihadist videos and had told her that he wished to carry out a jihadist attack. She told the FBI that she pleaded with him not to commit the shooting.
In a hearing for the case last Tuesday, federal prosecutor Roger Handberg told the judge with no uncertainty, “She knew he was going to conduct the attack.”
Salman and her lawyer claim otherwise. In a November interview with the New York Times, Salman said she had no prior knowledge of her husband’s intent to carry out the attack. She said that she was “unaware of everything” about it. In court on Wednesday, Salman pled “Not guilty” to both charges against her. Salman’s attorney, Linda Moreno, echoed Salman’s statement to the Times, saying she “had no foreknowledge nor could she predict what Omar Mateen intended to do that tragic night.”
However, regardless of the contradictory statements Salman and Moreno have made about prior knowledge of the attack, given who this attorney is, no one should take what either of them say as fact. Moreno has been handling terrorist-related cases for a number of years, now. Indeed, she has become a star in the radical Muslim community.
Moreno’s first terrorism case was as counsel to Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Sami al-Arian. Al-Arian was a co-founder of PIJ and created a PIJ infrastructure in Tampa, Florida comprised of a charity, a think tank, a mosque and a children’s school, the latter two of which are still in existence. Al-Arian had used these entities to conduct fundraising for PIJ. At the end of a long drawn-out trial, Al-Arian pled guilty to conspiracy to provide services to PIJ.
Another terrorist leader Moreno has represented is Ghassan Elashi. Elashi was the co-founder of the now-defunct Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF). Both Elashi and HLF were defendants in two federal trials taking place in 2007 and 2008, accused of raising millions of dollars for Hamas. In the latter trial, all of the defendants were found guilty of all charges.
Moreno also represented a number of al-Qaeda-linked individuals. They include the “Dirty Bomber” Jose Padilla and his co-defendant Adham Hassoun. The two were part of a South Florida al-Qaeda cell and were found guilty of one count of conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim overseas. They as well include Aafia Siddiqui, an al-Qaeda operative who was found guilty of all charges against her, including attempting to murder US nationals in Afghanistan.
The majority of these cases were funded through the Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA), an Islamist institution which finances the defense of individuals and groups who are charged by the US government with terrorist-related crimes. The Executive Director of MLFA is Eric “Khalil” Meek, a former leader of the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). MLFA provides Moreno and her legal services to its clients. Linda Moreno’s job is to defend those involved in terrorism prosecutions.
Noor Salman’s choice of Moreno as a defense lawyer and Moreno’s acceptance of the case would suggest that Mateen’s widow was complicit in her now deceased husband’s actions. It also implies that she has connections within the radical Muslim community. Her pleading of not guilty to her aiding and abetting the exploits of her spouse rings especially hollow in light of her past statements about the attack.
Linda Moreno has a proven track record of standing up for terrorists and whitewashing their actions. In the case of Noor Salman and her choice of lawyer, guilt by association is not farfetched and appears to be a foregone conclusion.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.