US woman charged over tweet allegedly insulting Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwean police have charged an American citizen with a new offence of plotting to overthrow a constitutionally elected government, her lawyer has said.

Martha O’Donovan had earlier been charged over a tweet that appeared to insult Robert Mugabe, weeks after the president appointed a cybersecurity minister to police social media.

O’Donovan was detained on Friday morning, a US embassy spokesman told the Associated Press. Her lawyer, Obey Shava, said she faced two charges – undermining the authority of or insulting the president and plotting to overthrow the government – of tweets that police claimed were “emanating from her IT address”

The exact words of the insult are unclear. Shava said his client had been accused of tweeting “We are being led by a selfish and sick man” from the Twitter handle @matigary.

The tweet had a photo illustration of the 93-year-old Mugabe with a catheter, according to the police charge sheet.

However, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, an activist group, said the offending tweet referred to a “goblin whose wife and stepson bought a Rolls-Royce”.