Court discharges U.S. journalist accused of insulting Mugabe

President of Zimbabwe
Robert Mugabe, former President of Zimbabwe

A 25-year-old US journalist, Martha O’Donovan, who was charged with insulting former president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has been let off after the court dismissed the case on Thursday.

Ms. O’Donovan was charged with subversion, undermining or insulting Mr. Mugabe in a tweet in October 2017 that described the ageing leader as “selfish and sick”.

She was arrested in early November but was later released on bail after spending days in prison.

She had tweeted, “We are being led by a selfish man and sick man,” and posted a photo suggesting Mr. Mugabe is surviving on a catheter.

Mr. Mugabe, 93, was toppled in November after a military takeover ended his 37-year grip on power.

AFP reported that the court dropped the case after prosecutors failed to meet a deadline to say when they would be ready to proceed with a trial.

“We are glad that the court has honoured its promise and removed our client from remand,” Ms. O’Donovan’s lawyer, Obey Shava told journalists.

“I would not agree with the notion that there was any case in the first place.”

The arrest of O’Donovan and the seizure of her laptop in a dawn raid at her apartment came weeks after Mr. Mugabe appointed a cyber-security minister tasked with policing social media.

Ms. O’Donovan would have faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted for subversion. She could also have faced a charge of undermining the authority of or insulting the president, which carries up to a year in prison.

Mr. Mugabe’s former deputy, now president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, abolished the portfolio when he appointed his own cabinet, which included former members of the military.

Ms. O’Donovan, who was on bail, worked for Harare-based Magamba TV, which describes itself as a producer of political satire and comedy.


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