Martha O’Donovan Granted Bail In Zimbabwe High Court, Awaits Trial

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The U.S. woman arrested last week for allegedly tweeting Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was a “sick man” will be released from jail Friday. Her release on bail was granted after a two hour hearing on Thursday.

MARTHA O'DONOVAN

MARTHA O’DONOVAN

Martha O’Donovan’s bail hearing in Zimbabwe’s high courts was “a big victory,” said human rights lawyer Doug Coltart.

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The judge ruled O’Donovan, who grew up in Bridgewater, New Jersey, would be granted $1,000 bail with conditions that include surrendering her passport, reporting to police twice a week, continuing to live in her home and not interfering with witnesses.

“The bail conditions are quite strict, but that is to be expected in cases of this nature. So generally I’d say it was fair,” Coltart said. “Such a relief though.”

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O’Donovan, an activist and producer for Magamba TV, was arrested Friday after allegedly criticizing the president through an anonymous Twitter account, @matigary. The tweet called Mugabe a “selfish and sick man.”

Her charges include insulting the president and attempting to overthrow the government, which carry up to 20 years in prison.

“This marks the end of part one of the battle,” her lawyer, Obey Shava, told local media. “We look forward to the next stage, which is the trial.”

The judge called the state’s arguments weak, pointing out O’Donovan could not be in charge of @matigary if her computer was taken away by police.

The state said O’Donovan may not be posting from the account, but the devices sending tweets were found in her home after the IP address was traced.

O’Donovan has denied all allegations, calling them “baseless and malicious.”

Her arrest was the first since Mugabe’s appointment of a cybersecurity minister, made in an effort to crack down dissent on social media .

“There is still a long journey ahead before she will be acquitted but this is an important step,” Coltart said.

He expects police to return O’Donovan’s belongings, including her laptop, to her. She will be released from the maximum security prison tomorrow morning, he said.

O’Donovan was not present for the hearing, but is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday when the state finishes investigations, CNN reported. 

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