4 January 2018

Zimbabwe Court Drops Subversion Case Against American

Photo: S. Mhofu/VOA
Martha O'Donovan leaving Harare Magistrates Court after her subversion charges had been dropped from the court roll, Harare, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018.

Harare — A court in Zimbabwe set aside charges against a U.S. citizen accusing her of subversion and undermining the authority of former President Robert Mugabe. The court acted after prosecutors failed to provide her a trial date.

"No comment right now, guys. Thank you." That is all Martha O'Donovan said to reporters outside Harare Magistrates Court on Thursday. Just a bit earlier, Magistrate Rumbidzai Mugwagwa said had to the U.S. citizen "further remand is denied. The state can follow by way of summons."

She was arrested in early November last year on charges of subversion and undermining the authority of now ousted President Robert Mugabe after allegedly tweeting that the 93-year-old was a "a selfish and sick man."

She denied both charges.

She spent a week at Zimbabwe's maximum security prison before being released on $1,000 bail.

Obey Shava from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights is representing the 25-year-old American and spoke to reporters after the court ruling Thursday.

"In the first place, there was no case. So something which the state called a case has crumbled today and we are quite glad that the court honored its promise; it removed our client from remand and we are happy because of that outcome," said Shava.

When O'Donovan last appeared in court in December the judge promised to remove her from the court roll unless she was furnished with a trial date which prosecutors did not do Thursday.

However, under Zimbabwean laws, the state can summon her to court should it come up with a date for trial, but all her bail conditions have been removed.

O'Donovan works for Magamba TV, a small company that produces what it calls political satire and comedy programming.

Just a few weeks after she was arrested, the military took control of the government, leading Mugabe to resign. His former vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa replaced him as president.

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