NJ’s Martha O’Donovan gets bail, released from brutal jail
HARARE, Zimbabwe — A New Jersey woman was freed from a brutal jail as a judge granted her request for bail.
Martha O'Donovan, 25, from Bridgewater was released after posting $1,000, when Justice Gregory Phiri found the state's argument to keep her behind bars as "weak" and "wanting." She is also required to surrender her passport and all travel documents. She must also check in twice a week with police.
O'Donovan is accused of sending a message via Twitter critical of 93-year-old Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as part of her attempt to overthrow the government.
"It is my view that the applicant is a suitable bail candidate," Phiri said after reviewing documents submitted by the state, claiming the New York University graduate had incited public violence in the past and was not a "suitable" candidate for bail because of a Facebook post on July 12, 2016.
The post in question reads #Shutdownzimbabwe2016 2.0 and the word "Hatichada," which referred to a movement for residents to fly the Zimbabwe flag on July 13 and 14, 2016. O'Donovan uses the same image in the profile of her own Twitter account, which is protected.
Phiri gave little credence to the state's argument that O'Donovan continued to tweet from prison using the account @matigary. Her lawyer, Obey Shava, argued that was not possible because her laptop was taken by police before she was sent to jail on Saturday.
While presenting their arguments against bail, the state admitted that O'Donovan herself was not sending messages from the account, but the devices required to send them belonged to her.
The state was also concerned she would return to the United States if bail were granted. Shava said O'Donovan would post $500 and adhere to strict conditions, adding that O'Donovan earns $1,300 a month from her job with Magamba Network, a network working to bring change to the political situation in Zimbabwe using, according to its website, "new media, activism and innovation."
At one point the judge told the lawyers to speak up because it was raining.
O'Donovan is accused of sending a message from the Twitter account @matigary that reads "we are being led by a selfish and sick man." The country said she runs "a sophisticated network of social media platforms" for the Magamba Network Trust and @OpenParlyZW, the organization representing her in court
Her hearing, which was postponed a day, was delayed several hours on Thursday to allow the judge assigned to her case to hear other cases first.
O'Donovan still faces a possible 20-year sentence on charges she tried to subvert the government and undermine and insult Mugabe in Twitter posts. It’s part of her effort to overthrow the government, the country alleges.