US & Canada

Pulse nightclub shooting: Gunman's wife bailed pending trial

Noor Salman (L) and Omar Mateen (R) Image copyright Facebook
Image caption The couple marreid in 2011 and have a son who is now four years old

A judge's decision to grant bail for the wife of a man who killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, pending her trial, has sparked outrage.

Noor Salman, widow of Omar Mateen, is accused of obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting his material support to the so-called Islamic State.

A California federal judge said Ms Salman is not a flight risk or a danger to public safety.

But she agreed to hold the decision for two days as prosecutors appeal.

The June 2016 attack was the worst mass shooting in modern US history.

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Orlando Police Chief John Mina said in a statement that he was "disappointed" by Wednesday's move to free 31-year-old Ms Salman.

A survivor of the shooting, Chris Hansen, expressed shock at the decision.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The attack left 49 people dead and 53 others wounded

"You've got people who are behind bars for selling marijuana but she might be allowed free, how does that make any sense?" he told the Orlando Sentinel.

"This whole situation is heartbreaking. It's going to make it hard to sleep at night - again."

Oakland-based Judge Donna Ryu ruled that Ms Salman could live with her uncle in northern California, but must wear an electronic ankle monitor.

The judge said there is no evidence the accused is directly linked to any terror groups, or that she personally holds extremist views.

She added that it was "debatable" whether the government had enough evidence to convict the accused.

Ms Salman's lawyer, Linda Moreno, said it was "extraordinarily rare" for bail to be given in terrorism cases.

The accused's attorneys said the bond would be $500,000 (£407,000).

Ms Salman has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and claimed she was victim of domestic abuse.

During pre-trial proceedings, federal prosecutor Sarah Sweeney said the couple had run up $25,000 in credit card debt and spent about $5,000 in the days before the attacks.

Included in the purchases was an $8,000 diamond ring for Ms Salman.

The couple also made her the beneficiary of Mateen's bank account in the event of his death, prosecutors said.

Earlier this month, the same judge ordered that Ms Salman undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

She was not arrested until 16 January 2017, at her parents' home near San Francisco.

A date for her trial has not yet been set.

Prosecutors say Ms Salman "knowingly misled" FBI interrogators in the hours after the attack, in which her husband pledged support to multiple terrorist groups, including the self-styled Islamic State.

They say she helped her husband in scouting the nightclub before the attack.

Her lawyers have argued she was a victim of a "tragic marriage" to Mateen, and that she had no prior knowledge of the attack.

Court documents filed by the defence state that Mateen suffered erratic mood swings due to steroid abuse and that he threatened to kill his wife if she left him.

Mateen opened fire at the Pulse nightclub as it was about to close for the night. He was killed by police.