American citizen freed on $1 000 bail

HARARE - An American citizen, Martha O'Donovan, who was arrested for allegedly attempting to topple President Robert Mugabe’s government has been released on $1 000 bail by the High Court.

High Court judge Clement Phiri yesterday ruled that it was in the best interest of justice to release O’Donovan on bail after ruling that his lawyer Obey Shava had made a sufficient presentation warranting the release of his client.

As part of the bail conditions, O’Donovan was ordered to report to the police twice a week, surrender her passport, not to interfere with witnesses and to reside at the address that she provided to the court, until the finalisation of the case.

Phiri noted that tweets and the website that O’Donovan is accused of running is continuously churning out information despite, the American national having been incarcerated and her laptop and cellphone having been confiscated by the State.

“It’s my considered view that the applicant has demonstrated that there are compelling reasons why this court in the interest of justice must rule in favour of the applicant,” Phiri said.

The 25-year-old is accused of attempting to subvert a constitutionally elected government and a further charge of insulting Mugabe, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail.

The State alleged that O’Donovan systematically sought to incite political unrest through the expansion and use of sophisticated network on social media platforms as well as running Magamba Network Trust. She is also being accused of being the face behind accounts on microblogging site Twitter under usernames @matigari and @openparlyzw.

Using username @matigari, O’Donovan is also accused of posting a message which read: “We are being led by a selfish and sick man.”

The message was accompanied by a photo showing that Mugabe is surviving on a catheter, the charge sheet reads

In her bail application, O’Donovan through her lawyer Shava from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) argued that the seriousness of an offence alone is not sufficient reason to induce the applicant to flee, “especially when one has regard to the apparent weaknesses of the State case”.

“The alleged sophisticated network of social media platforms is not specified. The offending content from those social media platforms is not set out. Consequently, the State case is not founded upon any factual basis but a bald allegation.

“It is not immediately clear what account Magamba Network Trust is, applicant is employed by Magamba Network, which is a registered Trust, whose date of registration is September 9, 2010, several years before the commission of the alleged offence.

“Applicant is neither founder nor a trustee,” he said.

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