United States citizen arrested in Zimbabwe, accused of insulting Mugabe

A US citizen has been arrested for a tweet just weeks after Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe appointed a cyber security minister charged with policing social media. By Jekesai NJIKIZANA

Zimbabwe makes its first arrest over Twitter post

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

Martha O' Donovan appears at the Harare Magistrates court on November 4, 2017.

Her attorney, Rose Hanzi, has said the charge is illegal due to the fact that police didn't inform O'Donovan of it when she was arrested at her home on Friday.

An NYU grad working for a Zimbabwean TV station faces 20 years in the slammer for allegedly insulting the country's controversial leader on Twitter.

O'Donovan is also charged with undermining or insulting the authority of the president. Hanzi said they will approach the High Court for bail on Monday.

"I deny the allegations being leveled against me as baseless and malicious", CNN reported O'Donovan said, according to court papers.

The group representing O'Donovan, 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.

The offending tweet allegedly referred to a "goblin whose wife and step-son bought a Rolls-Royce".

O'Donovan's arrest became the first one since Mugabe established the Cyber Security Ministry. 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.

The lawyer says O'Donovan has worked with local social media outlet Magamba TV, whose target audience is youth. Earlier this year, she presented a talk at a digital culture conference on "How Zimbabweans Rebel Online".

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.

"This arrest marks the start of a sinister new chapter in the Zimbabwean government's clampdown on freedom of speech, and the new battleground is social media", the Amnesty statement read in part.

The damning tweet was posted on the account @matigary and police said they'd traced the IP address to O'Donovan.

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