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Sunday 23 July 2017

Judge blocks jail release for wife of Orlando nightclub gunman

The aftermath of the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando (AP)
The aftermath of the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando (AP)

The wife of the Orlando nightclub gunman has been ordered to remain in jail for the time being.

A federal judge issued the ruling in Florida, a day after a magistrate in California said Noor Salman could be released.

US District Judge Paul Byron, sitting in Orlando, made an order saying Salman should stay in jail while he decides if she should be detained or released pending her trial on charges that she helped her husband scout out potential targets and created a cover story for him.

A federal magistrate in Oakland, California, had ordered Salman's release as early as Friday, saying it was "debatable" whether the government had enough evidence to convict her.

US Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu also said Salman, 31, was not dangerous and there was no proof she had ties to the Islamic State group or held extremist views.

The criminal charges were filed in Florida, but the detention hearing was held in California because Salman was living in the Bay Area at the time she was taken into custody.

Salman has pleaded not guilty to charges of aiding and abetting, and obstruction of justice. She faces life in prison if she is convicted.

Salman's husband, Omar Mateen, pledged allegiance to IS during the attack at the Pulse gay nightclub on June 12.

The deadliest mass shooting in recent US history left 49 people dead and dozens injured. Mateen was eventually killed by police.

In their motion asking that she be detained, prosecutors said there is a presumption in the law for Salman to be held in jail since the crime involves terrorism, and that prosecutors need not show anything more than an indictment to back up their request.

"Here, the defendant proffered evidence of her husband's alleged abuse, the affidavits of friends and family, and her lack of overall danger in support of an argument that she does not constitute a flight risk or danger to the community," the prosecutors said.

"Such proffered evidence falls far short of justifying a finding in favour of release, particularly in light of the nature of the charged offence."

Salman's lawyer Linda Moreno said the motion seemed to be a rehash of what was argued in the California court.

"The court found that the evidence they claim supports these allegations was debatable," Ms Moreno said. "It's far more than debatable. It's groundless."

AP

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