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American Woman Faces 20 Years In Zimbabwe Jail For Tweet About Mugabe

On Friday, Techzim reported that Martha O’Donovan from Magamba TV was taken into custody for a tweet that had allegedly been sent out by her during the Shoko Festival in early September.

Just when we thought the ministry of Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation was a big joke; the cops fire a warning shot!

 

We are reliably informed that at 5 am this morning, Martha O’Donovan of Magamba TV was picked up by the police and taken into their custody for ‘tweeting against the president’.

 

In actual fact, Martha retweeted a ‘tweet against the president’ and amongst the 58 other retweets, she was picked out. The police came in with a search warrant and proceeded to confiscate all her electronic devices.

The tweet has since been deleted but said this...

We are being led by a selfish & sick man 

      pic.twitter.com/9Q2PDsFrwV

 

- mmatigari (@matigary) 

As the weekend progressed the situation became considerably more serious.

Techzim reports that today, a charge sheet emerged on Twitter detailing her alleged crime. The government is laying two charges.

  • Subverting a constitutional government through Masterminding a social media campaign to overthrow the government by unconstitutional means, with the campaign allegedly being run under the social media accounts; @Matigary, @OpenparlyZim and Magamba Network Trust.
  • Undermining the authority of and insulting the authority of the president by tweeting as @Matigary a tweet that read “We’re being led by a selfish and sick man”.

Below is the warned and cautioned statement that O’Donovan signed (via Techzim)

HARARE CENTRAL CR. 15/11/2017     EXHIBIT ” ”
CID LAW AND ORDER DR 03/11/17

WARNED AND CAUTIONED STATEMENT

 

I, Martha Louise O’Donovan, aged 25 years, passport number 549812235 residing at XYZ* (address removed), Harare, having been informed by Detective Inspector Murawa of CID law and Order, Harare that enquiries are being made in connection with a case of UNDERMINING AUTHORITY OF OR INSULTING PRESIDENT AS DEFINED IN SECTION 33 (2) (b) OF THE CRIMINAL LAW (CODIFICATION AND REFORM] ACT, CHAPTER 9:23, in which it is alleged that on 11 October 2017 at 0941 hours in Harare, I posted a message on Twitter using username @matigary which reads, “We are being led by a selfish and sick man”, with a photo illustration showing that the President of Zimbabwe, Comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe is surviving on a Catheter, make this statement of my own free will.

 

While I have been informed that I ant not obliged to say anything in answer to these allegations, my failure at this stage to mention any facts relevant to my defence to them may result in a court drawing inferences against me. Whatever I say will be put in writing and may be given in court as evidence.

 

You are also advised that you are entitled to the following rights:-

  • To appear before a court within 48 hours unless further detention has been authorized by a competent court.
  • Not to be forced to make a confession.
  • The reason for detention.
  • To approach the High Court for an order of Habeas Corpus i.e an order requiring you to be released, or to be brought before the court for the lawfulness of the detention to be justified.
  • To be considered innocent until proven guilty.
  • To be informed promptly of the charge in sufficient detail to enable you to answer it.

Question: Have you understood the caution?
Answer: Yes.

 

Accused’s reply in English.

I deny the allegations being levelled against me as baseless and malicious. That is all I wish to say.

Techzim notes that O’Donovan has been remanded in custody, the Chikurubi Maximum prison, until 15th November.

Lawyers representing her have said that they’ll be applying for bail at the high court on Monday, 6 November 2017.

What is certain though is that the Zimbabwean government has started the dreaded crackdown on social media and is not going to wait for its Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Bill to become law. It’s not clear if this is the government’s new Cybersecurity ministry that’s already at work or an initiative by a different government agency.

O’Donovan, whose lawyers will be approaching the Zimbabwean High Court seeking bail, could face a maximum 20 years sentence if found guilty of the charges levelled against her.

To clarify - for posting stuff on social media, and in this case the “sick man” retweet, O’Donovan was masterminding an Arab Spring-type revolution - and now faces 20 years in prison!

The US Embassy is reportedly aware of the situation.