Zimbabwe charges USA woman with subversion

Zimbabwean President Robert Muagbe addresses mourners at the Heroes Acre in Harare. Lawyers and a U.S. Embassy official have said Friday Nov. 3 2017 Zimbabwe police have arrested a United States citiz

The charge of subversion carries up to 20 years in prison.

The Washington Post reported that on Friday, 25-year-old New York University graduate Martha O'Donovan - who had lived in Zimbabwe since 2016 and worked at a local satirical comedy station - has been charged with subversion and attempting to overthrow the Mugabe government.

The court today dismissed a request by O'Donovan's lawyers to strike down the subversion charge, arguing that police didn't inform her of it when she was arrested Saturday morning.

She is accused of posting the message "We are being led by a selfish and sick man" on Twitter.

"Most Zimbabweans do vent on social media about the state of the country, so if they arrest her for this, they might as well arrest all Zimbabweans on social media", activist Munya Bloggo told BuzzFeed News. The court disagreed, and O'Donovan will remain in custody over the weekend.

Zimbabwe authorities say they believe O'Donovan is the author of the tweet on October 11 based on her IP address.

In court, she called the allegation baseless and malicious. The organization tweeted a photograph of O'Donovan and her lawyer at the police station Friday.

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She is also alleged to have referred to Mugabe in a tweet as a "goblin whose wife and step-son bought a Rolls-Royce".

Martha O'Donovan works for social media outlet Magamba TV, which targets youth and describes itself as Zimbabwe's leading producer of political satire.

Recent online reports have claimed Mr Mugabe's two adult sons, Robert Jr and Chatunga, have imported at least one luxury vehicle from neighbouring South Africa.

The lawyers say this is the first arrest for a social media-related offence after Mugabe created a Cyber Security Ministry last month.

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.

Zimbabwe was shaken past year by the biggest anti-government protests in a decade.

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