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U.S. citizen held in Zimbabwe for insulting Mugabe

06 November 2017 police arrested a United States citizen on Friday for apparently tweeting that President Robert Mugabe is a "goblin whose wife and step-son bought a Rolls Royce", lawyers said.

Martha O'Donovan was arrested in her apartment in Harare - Zimbabwe's Capital city - at around 5 a.m Friday. She could be facing up to 20 years in prison.

O'Donovan has been charged with undermining the authority of or insulting the president, Shava said. She is expected to ask the High Court for bail on Monday morning.

The US embassy said on Friday that it had been in contact with O'Donovan and her legal counsel.

The New Jersey native gave a statement to police calling the allegations "baseless and malicious".

The move came under severe criticism from activists who said it was an attempt to gag social media users. Frustration is growing in the once-prosperous southern African nation as the economy collapses and the president, in power since 1980, is already running for next year's elections.

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Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers arrested Martha O'Donovan, an American citizen, who works for Magamba TV, during a dawn raid at her Harare residence and confiscated her electronic devices including her laptop and detained her at Harare Central Police Station's CID Law and Order Section.

Rights lawyers in Zimbabwe say this is the first arrest for a social media-related offence after President Mugabe created a Cyber Security Ministry in October.

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

According to state court documents, police observed tweets from O'Donovan saying a sick person was leading Zimbabweans.

"This arrest marks the start of a sinister new chapter in the Zimbabwean government's clampdown on freedom of speech, and the new battleground is social media", the Amnesty statement read in part.

Relatives refused to comment when reached at their Bridgewater, NJ, home on Saturday.

U.S. citizen held in Zimbabwe for insulting Mugabe