Zimbabwe: Police Arrests US Citizen Over Robert Mugabe 'Goblin' Tweet

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

Human rights lawyers on Friday had said 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".

The 25-year-old American journalist is charged with attempting to overthrow the president on account of an alleged tweet that described the ageing leader as "selfish and sick". That charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. She later said O'Donovan faced additional charges of subverting a constitutionally elected government.

According to Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights - the organisation representing Ms O'Donovan in her case - she was arrested in a Friday morning raid on her apartment and held at the Harare Central Police Station overnight. Ms O'Donovan also is charged with undermining the authority of or insulting the President.

Hanzi said they will approach the High Court for bail on Monday.

O'Donovan, who attended New York University and moved to Zimbabwe previous year, said the allegations are "baseless and malicious" because someone is still posting on the Twitter account.

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The arrest appears to be the first since Mr Mugabe appointed a cyber security minister last month.

Social media posts played a major role in fueling major anti-government protests in Zimbabwe past year.

O'Donovan works as a producer and project officer with local television network Magamba, which produces satirical content for distribution by Facebook and YouTube, created to provoke activism and open up Zimbabwe's democratic space. Earlier this year, she presented a talk at a re:publica digital culture conference on "How Zimbabweans Rebel Online".

The group representing Ms O'Donovan, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, says it has represented almost 200 people charged for allegedly insulting Mr Mugabe, the world's oldest head of state, in recent years.

Amnesty International's deputy regional director, Muleya Mwananyanda, called the arrest "the start of a sinister new chapter in the Zimbabwean government's clampdown on freedom of speech", adding that "the new battleground is social media".

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