A U.S. judge cleared the way on Wednesday for the widow of the gunman who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, to be released from jail and appeared to throw doubt on the strength of the government’s case against her.
Noor Salman was arrested in California in January on federal charges accusing her of knowing that her husband, Omar Mateen, was planning the June 2016 attack, and of concocting a cover story for him.
Prosecutors wanted Salman to remain jailed before her trial. But U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu said in an Oakland courtroom that the government had not shown Salman was a danger to the community or a serious flight risk.
“I find the weight of the government evidence as debatable,” Ryu added. Commenting later on the allegations that Salman knew what her husband was going to do that night, the judge said: “All the government assertions are hotly debated.”
Salman is charged with obstructing justice and aiding Mateen in his attempt to provide material support to a terrorist organization. Mateen was killed in a shootout with police after he took hostages during a three-hour standoff at the Pulse nightclub.
The judge ordered Salman to live with her uncle in Rodeo, California, and said she would only be allowed to leave home for court and medical appointments.
Ryu gave prosecutors in Florida 48 hours to challenge her ruling, meaning Salman could not walk free from jail until Friday at the earliest.