NJ’s Martha O’Donovan remains in brutal prison over tweet
HARARE, Zimbabwe — A New Jersey woman jailed for her alleged tweets insulting Zimbabwe's president will remain behind bars in what's been described as one of Africa's worst prisons.
A judge on Monday set a bail hearing for Martha O'Donovan, 25, for 9 a.m. local time on Wednesday (2 a.m. in New Jersey)
She was taken into custody on Saturday after a judge dismissed her attorney's claim that authorities didn't make clear the reason for her arrest.
The Bridgewater-Raritan High School graduate was charged with trying to subvert the government and with undermining and insulting Zimbabwe president President Robert Mugabe in Twitter posts. It's part of her effort to overthrow the government, the country alleges.
Congressman Leonard Lance met with O'Donovan's father over the weekend.
"We are making the situation a priority," John Byers, a spokesman for Lance, told New Jersey 101.5.
Messages to U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. 4th District, and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., have not been returned. U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez's office said it is looking into the matter.
She 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 @OpenPartyZW, the organization representing her in court.
She's also accused of using Magamba's account to retweet another @matigary's tweet calling Mugabe a "goblin."
"Contrary to the accused's stated objectives when she entered the country, she engaged in working to raise foreign funding to capacitate a sophisticated online programme of action that is designed to culminate in online activism translating to a highly organized attempt to replicate offline uprisings like what happened in Tunisia and Egypt," according to a copy of the allegations posted online by techzim.co.zw in Zimbabwe.
The Twitter account @matigary continued to send out messages event after O'Donovan was imprisoned at the Cikurubi women's prison.
A post by the news site Zimbabwe Today ranked the prison as the worst in Africa, with as many as 40 inmates housed in each 30-foot-by-13-foot cell. It is known for overcrowding, guard brutality, poor sanitary conditions and all day lockups, according to the site.
The Magamba Network describes itself as an organization seeking to bring change the political situation Zimbabwe using “new media, activism and innovation," according to its website.
Earlier this year, O'Donovan presented a talk at a Re:Publica digital culture conference on “How Zimbabweans Rebel Online.” She also manages a pop-up bar called Mar’s Bar.
O'Donovan's family declined to comment to New Jersey 101.5.
Do you know Martha O’Donovan? Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com