A 25-year-old American woman charged with subversion in Zimbabwe for allegedly insulting the president on Twitter as a "sick man" will remain in police custody over the weekend after her first court appearance on Sunday. The subversion charges carry up to 20 years in prison.
Zimbabwe police on Friday picked up United States citizen Martha O'Donovan and seized her laptop during a dawn raid on her home in Harare.
Police claimed O'Donovan had tweeted, "We are being led by a selfish man and a sick man", and charged her under the country's repressive laws.
O'Donovan appeared in court in the capital, Harare, on Saturday.
It was the first arrest in Zimbabwe since Mugabe established a Cyber Security Ministry, in an ominous sign of the country's intensifying crackdown on activism and freedom of speech.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rightsposted on Facebook said another offending tweet on her account referred to a "goblin whose wife and stepson bought a Rolls-Royce". O'Donovan is also charged with undermining the authority of or insulting the president.
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O'Donovan has denied the allegations as "baseless and malicious".
O'Donovan is accused of referring to Mugabe when she tweeted about a "Goblin" whose wife and step-sons imported an expensive vehicle. The organization tweeted a photograph of O'Donovan and her lawyer at the police station Friday.
The alleged tweet follows online reports that Mugabe's two sons, Robert Jr and Chatunga, have imported at least one luxury vehicle from neighboring South Africa.
Mugabe last month appointed a minister for cybersecurity, a move criticized by activists as aimed at clamping down on social media users.
"Our client is vehemently denying both charges", her lawyer Obey Shava told AFP, adding that O'Donovan would apply for bail on Monday at the High Court.
Martha O'Donovan works for Magamba TV, a local company that specialises in political satire. The position was created to focus on crimes on social media and other websites, after activists used social media to promote the largest anti-government protest in a decade previous year.
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