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Pulse gunman’s father revealed as FBI informant, but judge won’t dismiss case

There were several hundred FBI agents in Austin investigating serial bombings in March 2018. (YouTube)

Pulse nightclub gunman Omar Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, was an informant for the FBI for more than a decade before the 2016 mass shooting and is facing a criminal investigation in connection with money transfers to Turkey and Afghanistan.

FBI Special Agent Juvenal Martin also revealed he considered developing Omar Mateen as an informant after closing an investigation into comments Mateen made at work in 2013 about belonging to terrorist organizations.

Defense lawyers for Noor Salman, Omar Mateen’s widow, argued the case against her should be thrown out or declared a mistrial, but U.S. District Judge Paul Byron rejected that request Monday. Afterward, Salman hunched forward over the table in front of her and held her face in her hands while lawyers spoke privately with the judge.

According to a motion filed by Salman’s lawyers, the defense team learned of Seddique Mateen’s work for the FBI on Saturday, in an email from prosecutor Sara Sweeney. Sweeney said the elder Mateen had been an FBI source “at various points” between January 2005 and June 2016. Seddique Mateen was on prosecutors’ witness list but they rested their case last week without calling him to testify.

Sweeney also revealed that FBI agents investigating the shooting found receipts for money transfers to Turkey and Afghanistan between March 16, 2016 and June 5, 2016. On June 10, Omar Mateen searched for cheap tickets to Istanbul.

Omar Mateen opened fire inside Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016, killing 49 people.

Salman’s defense lawyers suggested his father sending money to Turkey and Afghanistan indicates Omar Mateen might have planned to travel to one of the countries to join a terrorist organization.

Seddique Mateen was not aware he was under investigation, but defense lawyer Fritz Schellar told the judge he since informed the elder Mateen’s lawyer, Tampa-based attorney Todd Foster. Foster declined to comment when reached by phone late Monday.

The nature of the FBI’s investigation of Seddique Mateen was unclear.

In their motion, Salman’s lawyers said they’d never before been told about the FBI’s relationship with Mateen or the money transfers — an omission that was grounds, they argued, for the case to be dismissed.

“It is apparent from the Government’s belated disclosure that Ms. Salman has been defending a case without a complete set of facts and evidence that the Government was required to disclose,” Scheller wrote in the court filing.

The judge decided any charges that may come against Seddique Mateen would not erase Salman’s culpability.

“This trial is not about Seddique Mateen. It’s about Noor Salman,” Byron said.

Defense lawyers began putting on their case Monday. They are expected to rest Tuesday and both sides would give closing arguments Wednesday before jurors begin deliberating.

In the aftermath of the Pulse attack, Seddique Mateen told CNN he was “not aware of” his son being a terrorist, though he considered the mass shooting an act of terror. “This is the worst thing that can happen for a father to see a son act like this,” he said in a June 14, 2016, interview.

Born in Afghanistan, Seddique Mateen prior to the massacre had worked as a fringe political commentator, often railing against Pakistan and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, according to a report by Reuters.

FBI Special Agent Juvenal Martin, who oversaw Seddique Mateen as an informant after transferring to the FBI’s Miami division in 2006, also testified about investigating Omar Mateen, after co-workers at the security firm G4S reported in 2013 that Mateen had made comments about being connected to al-Qaida, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Martin had Mateen’s supervisor wear a concealed recording device. It didn’t capture him making such statements again, Martin said.

Martin, along with other law enforcement, later interviewed the younger Mateen three times at his apartment. Salman was home all three times, the agent testified.

Mateen admitted making the comments, but said he did so because he felt harassed at work.

Martin said he considered trying to develop Mateen as an informant, like his father, after finding he didn’t have ties to terrorism. Omar Mateen would later claim allegiance to the Islamic State group in conversations with an Orlando police crisis negotiator as he carried out the mass shooting at Pulse.

Salman, 31, is accused of obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting Omar Mateen’s providing material support to a foreign terrorism organization. Until testimony began, Salman was seemingly upbeat, chatting frequently with her lawyers and waving to her family. She smiled and spoke with U.S. Marshals who escorted her in and out of the courtroom.

On Monday, Salman clutched tissues and wiped her face as two childhood friends and an uncle testified in her defense. Her uncle, Abdallah Salman, turned away and cleared his throat while describing giving his blessing to Mateen to marry Salman in 2011. Abdallah Salman’s voice broke when he repeated what he said to Mateen’s father: “I trust you with my niece.”

Among the witnesses called to testify for Salman’s defense were two women with whom Mateen had trysts outside of his marriage and a computer forensics expert who read aloud sexually explicit messages Mateen sent women.

The testimony comes as defense lawyers work to convince Salman’s jury that her husband, a manipulator and abuser, was leading a secret life about which his wife was unaware.

Her defense attorneys have said they plan to tell jurors that Salman was diagnosed with PTSD because of Mateen’s domestic abuse. In her opening statements, defense attorney Linda Moreno said Salman is a “trusting, simple” person with a low IQ, who did not know she would be widowed because her husband became “a martyr for a cause that she didn’t support.”

An expert in false confessions who has said Salman was especially susceptible to signing a false confession is expected to testify Tuesday.


© 2018 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.