Harare, Zimbabwe : A judge in Zimbabwe has ordered that 25-year-old Martha O’Donovan, a New Jersey native charged with subversion and accused of insulting the president should be freed on $1,000 bail.
Prosecutors say that on October 11, O’Donovan tweeted on her @matigary account: “We are being led by a selfish and sick man.” The tweet was illustrated with a photo showing the Zimbabwean president with a catheter device.
The judge sided with the defence and accepted that the state had failed to justify the reason for remanding her in custody.
Martha O’Donovan also must hand over her passport and report to police twice a week. She was arrested on Friday. She has denied that she called 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe a “sick man” on Twitter.
The 25-year-old O’Donovan faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on the subversion charge. She also faces a charge of undermining the authority of or insulting the president, which carries up to a year in prison.
Martha O’Donovan will return to court on Nov. 15.
O’Donovan works for Harare-based Magamba TV, which describes itself as a leading producer of cutting-edge political satire and comedy. Its content is uploaded to YouTube.
Human rights lawyers had said previously that the arrest was linked to a retweet which did not mention Mugabe by name but referred to a “goblin whose wife and step-son bought a Rolls-Royce”.
Mugabe’s stepson with his wife and first-lady Grace is thought to have recently imported two of the British luxury cars, according to local media reports.
The cybersecurity ministry was created in Mugabe’s latest cabinet shuffle last month and is seen by rights groups as an attempt to clamp down on social media ahead of next year’s election.
Mugabe has already been named by his ruling ZANU-PF party as its presidential candidate for the 2018 vote.