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United States citizen held in Zimbabwe for insulting Mugabe

A US citizen has been arrested for a tweet just weeks after Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe appointed a cyber security minister charged with policing social media. By Jekesai NJIKIZANA

The 25-year-old has been charged with subversion for allegedly insulting President Robert Mugabe on Twitter as a "sick man". She was charged Saturday with insulting the president and subversion, which carries sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

According to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, detectives raided her house in Harare early on Friday morning and confiscated her laptop and other electronic equipment.

According to court documents released by the group Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, CNN reported that Zimbabwe authorities traced a tweet which said "we are being led by a selfish & sick man" and suggested Mugabe wore a catheter to O'Donovan's IP address. It is the first arrest since the launch of a ministry to control social media.

She's alleged to have insulted President Mugabe in a recent tweet on her personal timeline.

U.S. Citizen Martha O' Donovan, right, appears at the Harare Magistrates court escorted by a plain clothes police officer shielding her face in Harare, Saturday, November, 4, 2017.

O'Donovan, who attended New York University and moved to Zimbabwe previous year, said the allegations are "baseless and malicious" because someone is still posting on the Twitter account.

The offending tweet allegedly referred to a "goblin whose wife and step-son bought a Rolls-Royce". The organization tweeted a photograph of O'Donovan and her lawyer at the police station Friday.

The group representing O'Donovan, 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.

The move came under severe criticism from activists who said it was an attempt to gag social media users.

The New York University graduate works for social media outlet Magamba TV, which describes itself as "Zimbabwe's leading producer of cutting edge, political satire and comedy shows".

Social media posts played a major role in fueling major anti-government protests in Zimbabwe past year.

The court disagreed. Ms O'Donovan will remain in custody over the weekend, and her lawyers say they will ask the High Court for Bail on Monday.