January 4, 2018 / 11:27 AM / 14 days ago

Zimbabwe court dismisses case of U.S. woman charged with insulting Mugabe

HARARE (Reuters) - A U.S. citizen charged with attempting to overthrow the Zimbabwean government after police accused her of insulting then-president Robert Mugabe had her case dismissed by a Harare court on Thursday.

Martha O‘Donovan works for Magamba TV, which describes itself as Zimbabwe’s leading producer of political satire.

She was arrested in November in a dawn raid on her home in the capital after allegedly calling Mugabe, who was ousted in a bloodless coup a few weeks later, a “selfish and sick man” on Twitter.

O‘Donovan was first charged with insulting and undermining the president, and subsequently with subversion, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

O‘Donovan denied the accusations and had been granted bail in November by Zimbabwe’s High Court, which said there was “patent absence of facts” in the case and that the state could only bring her back to court when it had new evidence.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. citizen Martha O'Donovan (L), accused of attempting to subvert former President Robert Mugabe's government, leaves the courts in Harare, Zimbabwe December 8, 2017.REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo

On Thursday, magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa dismissed prosecutors’ application to keep O‘Donovan on bail.

“Further remand is denied. The State can proceed by way of summons,” she said.

O‘Donovan’s lawyers said they were happy the court had honoured its promise to judge the case on its merits.

Lawyer Obey Shava told journalists the court had returned computers, cellphones and other electronic devices that had been seized from O‘Donovan’s home.

Mugabe had been particularly uneasy about social media after activists such as pastor Evan Mawararire and his #ThisFlag movement in 2016 used social media to organise a stay-at-home demonstration, the biggest anti-government protest in a decade.

Reporting by Alfonce Mbizwo; Writing by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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