Tweet Could Send US Woman to Jail for 20 Years

NJ native Martha O'Donovan, 25, charged with subversion in Zimbabwe
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 10, 2017 6:45 AM CST
Tweet Could Send US Woman to Jail for 20 Years
This Nov. 1, 2017 file photo shows Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.   (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)

An American woman living in Zimbabwe could face 20 years in prison for subversion over a tweet. According to prosecutors, New Jersey native Martha O'Donovan, 25, tweeted a photo last month of President Robert Mugabe next to a drawing of a catheter and a reference to him being "selfish & sick," per the New York Times and Al Jazeera. The tweet came from an anonymous account known to be critical of Zimbabwe's government, but prosecutors say they were crafted by O'Donovan as part of a months-long effort "to incite political unrest" and "replicate offline uprisings like what happened in Tunisia and Egypt" in 2011. O'Donovan says those claims are "baseless and malicious," per the AP. In granting a $1,000 bail on Thursday, a high court judge appeared to agree.

O'Donovan—who works as a project coordinator at Magamba Network, an online news channel known for political satire—has "a plausible defense," said judge Clement Phiri, adding he's seen no evidence of a plot "to overthrow the government." Though O'Donovan is ordered to stay in Zimbabwe, her lawyer says the hearing was a victory since O'Donovan had spent at least three days in a maximum security prison following her arrest a week ago, while the Twitter account cited by prosecutors remained active. Hers is the first internet abuse case since a ministry designed to monitor cybersecurity was created last month. Some fear it's actually being used to control social media as Mugabe, 93, seeks re-election next year, following a 37-year rule. (More Zimbabwe stories.)

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