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US citizen arrested in Zimbabwe, accused of insulting Mugabe

President Robert Mugabe

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe police have arrested a United States citizen for allegedly insulting President Robert Mugabe on Twitter, lawyers and a U.S. Embassy official said Friday.

Police picked up Martha O’Donovan on Friday morning, embassy spokesman David McGuire told The Associated Press.

The police have not yet charged her but they claim that “tweets emanating from her IT address are insulting to the president,” said O’Donovan’s lawyer, Obey Shava with the group Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. It was not immediately clear what the alleged tweets said.

O’Donovan had been working with local social media outlet Magamba TV, whose target audience is youth, Shava said. The outlet describes itself as producing “satirical comedy sensations.”

Mugabe last month appointed a minister for cybersecurity, a move criticized by activists as aimed at clamping down on social media users. Zimbabwe was shaken last year by the country’s biggest anti-government protests in a decade, which were largely fueled by social media posts.

In a tweet, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said O’Donovan was the first arrest since the new ministry was created.

The group says it has represented nearly 200 people charged for allegedly insulting the 93-year-old Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state, in recent years. Frustration is growing in the once-prosperous southern African nation as the economy collapses.