Mugabe all but out, but NJ woman still faces prison over tweet about him
HARARE, Zimbabwe — Friends of Bridgewater native Martha O'Donovan say she is doing well as she awaits her fate in Zimbabwe over a Twitter post critical of President Robert Mugabe.
The 25-year-old was free on $1,000 bail awaiting a court hearing that was delayed twice because of a moves to expel Mugabe — now the subject of impeachment proceedings after a military takeover of his government last week. In the time since, protestors have taken to the street to denounce and riducult Mugabe and his decades-long rule.
The ruling ZANU-PF party began impeachment proceedings against Mugabe on Monday after its Central Committee voted to oust the president as party leader. Crowds rallied outside Parliament, dancing and singing. Some people placed photos of Mugabe in the street so that cars would run over them.
But O'Donovan is still scheduled to go before a Zimbabwe judge on Nov. 30, facing as much as 20 years in prison over a tweet she denies sending — one calling Mugabe a "sick man." The tweet was sent from the @matigary account, to which authorities allege O'Donovan had access.
As part of the terms of her bail she had to surrender her passport and travel documents.
The 93-year-old Mugabe is still president but has been under immense pressure from Parliament to step down. His departure from office would clear the way for his former vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, to become head of state. Mnangagwa served for decades as Mugabe's enforcer, with a reputation for being astute and ruthless, more feared than popular.
It's not clear if the charges against O'Donovan would be dropped since Mugabe, and the government she is accused of attempting to overthrow, would no longer be in power. Much lot would depend on whether or not a new leader would continue Mugabe's attempt to control what is said on social media and the Internet.
Just before the coup attempt, the government confiscated equipment from O'Donovan employer, Magamba Network, a network working to bring change the political situation Zimbabwe using, according to its website, “new media, activism and innovation.” It has have petitioned the government seeking return of the equipment, claiming that the charges are invalid because Mugabe is no longer in power.
O'Donovan's lawyer, Obey Shava, told The Daily Beast that if the state further delays her hearing he would seek dismissal of the charges.
“She is looking forward to the conclusion of this matter. She wants to cleanse her name," he told the news site.
Friend Munya Bloggo said in the same interview O'Donovan is doing well and will get through this incident.
A spokesman for Congressman Leonard Lance's office declined comment on O'Donovan's current situation. The 7th Congressional District representative earlier spoke with O'Donovan's father and said her situation was a "priority" to him.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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