United States citizen arrested in Zimbabwe for allegedly insulting Mugabe

O’Donovan with her lawyer waiting for charges

O’Donovan with her lawyer waiting for charges

A court in Zimbabwe on Saturday ordered a USA citizen held in jail while she faces allegations of subversion and undermining the authority of President Robert Mugabe.

The court disagreed and ruled that O'Donovan will remain in custody over the weekend.

A lawyer for 25-year-old Martha O'Donovan, Rose Hanzi, told the court that the subversion charge was illegal because police did not inform O'Donovan of it when she was taken from her home in the capital, Harare, on Friday morning.

The American denied both charges of subversion and undermining the authority of Mugabe as "baseless and malicious". He added that his client had formally been charged with insulting the president.

O'Donovan's lawyer, Obey Shava, says police have not yet charged her but they claim that "tweets emanating from her IT address are insulting to the president".

She later said O'Donovan faced additional charges of subverting a constitutionally elected government.

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The US embassy said on Friday that it had been in contact with O'Donovan and her legal counsel.

However Mugabe's step-son with his wife and first lady Grace, Russell Goreraza, is thought to be the only individual to have recently imported two Rolls-Royce vehicles into the country, local media reported.

Last month, Mugabe appointed a "cybersecurity minister", ostensibly to crack down on social media criticism of the government.

Security forces searched the house of Martha O'Donovan, Director of the satirical media outlet Magamba TV, and seized electronic devices, including her laptop, according to Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Efe news reported. Earlier this year, she presented a talk at a re:publica digital culture conference on "How Zimbabweans Rebel Online". Last year, the southern African nation saw its biggest anti-government protests in more than a decade, driven, of course, by social media, the communication currency of this generation.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights says it has represented almost 200 people charged for allegedly insulting Mugabe, the world's oldest head of state, in recent years.

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