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Zimbabwe

US woman facing subversion charges in Zimbabwe free on bail

Martha O'Donovan faces 20 years in prison if convicted of trying to subvert the authority of President Robert Mugabe. At the same time, four others were released on bail for heckling the president's wife Grace.

A US citizen accused of attempting to subvert the government of Zimbabwe was released on bail on Friday. Martha O'Donovan, 25, was held for a week in a maximum security prison in Harare after she allegedly insulted 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe on Twitter.

Judge Clement Phiri ruled on Thursday that the state's case demonstrated a "patent absence of facts."

The incident revolves around a tweet reportedly issued by O'Donovan in October that called Mugabe a "selfish and sick man" as well as one featuring a picture of him with a catheter. The self-described media activist faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of subversion.

Her second charge of insulting the president carries a one-year prison sentence. Zimbabwe Laywers for Human Rights, which is representing O'Donovan, said it has had some 200 clients in recent years facing charges of insulting Mugabe.

Martha O'Donovan

Martha O'Donovan was ushered to the US embassy after her release

Grace Mugabe hecklers released

On the same day, four others were released on bail after being detained for heckling First Lady Grace Mugabe at a political rally in Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo.

"There is no compelling reason for denying the accused their rights," said Judge Mkhwananzi.

According to the daily Herald, three men and one woman were arrested for singing "we hate what you are doing," when the president's powerful wife addressed the crowd.

The president has accused his former deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa of organizing the hecklers. Mugabe sacked Mnangagwa last week, clearing the way for his 52-year-old wife to succeed him.

However, frustration is mounting with Mugabe's 30-year presidency as the once prosperous nation watches its economy slowly collapse.

Watch video 01:39

American journalist charged over tweet in Zimbabwe

es/ng (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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