U.S. citizen facing subversion charges in Zimbabwe released from jail

HARARE, Nov 10 (Reuters) - A U.S. citizen accused of attempting to subvert President Robert Mugabe's government was released from Zimbabwe's maximum security jail on Friday, a day after the High Court ordered her to be freed on bail, Reuters witnesses said.

Judge Clement Phiri ruled on Thursday that there was a "patent absence of facts" in the state's case against 25-year-old Martha O'Donovan, whose arrest last week centered on accusations she insulted 93-year-old Mugabe in a Twitter post.

She denies the accusation.

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U.S. citizen Martha O'Donovan detained in Zimbabwe
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U.S. citizen Martha O'Donovan detained in Zimbabwe
US citizen, Martha O'Donovan, who was arrested for undermining the authority of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe on Twitter, arrives at Harare Magistrate's Court in Harare November 4, 2017. Zimbabwean police arrested a US citizen on November 3, for allegedly tweeting that President Robert Mugabe is a 'goblin whose wife and step-son bought a Rolls-Royce,' lawyers said. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said officers detained Martha O'Donovan in a dawn raid at her home just weeks after Mugabe appointed a cyber security minister charged with policing social media. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. citizen Martha O'Donovan is released on bail at Chikurubi Maximum Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
U.S. citizen Martha O'Donovan is seen through a car window after she was released on bail at Chikurubi Maximum Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
U.S. citizen Martha O'Donovan is led into a remand truck outside court in Harare, Zimbabwe November 4, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. citizen Martha O'Donovan is led into a remand truck outside court in Harare, Zimbabwe November 4, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
U.S. citizen Martha O'Donovan is led into a remand truck outside court in Harare, Zimbabwe November 4, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
U.S. citizen Martha O'Donovan arrives at court in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 4, 2017. O'Donovan was charged on Friday with attempting to overthrow the Zimbabwean government, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in jail, after police earlier accused her of insulting 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
U.S. citizen Martha O'Donovan arrives at court in Harare, Zimbabwe November 4, 2017. O'Donovan was charged on Friday with attempting to overthrow the Zimbabwean government, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in jail, after police earlier accused her of insulting 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
U.S. citizen Martha O'Donovan arrives at court in Harare, Zimbabwe November 4, 2017. O'Donovan was charged on Friday with attempting to overthrow the Zimbabwean government, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in jail, after police earlier accused her of insulting 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
U.S. citizen Martha O'Donovan arrives at court in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 4, 2017. O'Donovan was charged on Friday with attempting to overthrow the Zimbabwean government, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in jail, after police earlier accused her of insulting 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
US citizen, Martha O'Donovan (C), who was arrested for undermining the authority of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe on Twitter, arrives at Harare Magistrate's Court in Harare November 4, 2017. Zimbabwean police arrested a US citizen on November 3, for allegedly tweeting that President Robert Mugabe is a 'goblin whose wife and step-son bought a Rolls-Royce,' lawyers said. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said officers detained Martha O'Donovan in a dawn raid at her home just weeks after Mugabe appointed a cyber security minister charged with policing social media. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)
US journalist Martha O'Donovan, who was arrested on charges of insulting Zimbabwe's president and attempting to subvert the country's regime, sits in the back of a US Embassy vehicle as she leaves Chikurubi Maximum Prison near Harare, after being released on 1000 USD bail on November 10, 2017. Zimbabwe freed on November 9 a 25-year-old American journalist charged with subverting President Robert Mugabe on account of an alleged tweet that described the ageing leader as 'selfish and sick'. Martha O'Donovan had been charged with attempting to overthrow Mugabe as well as undermining or insulting the veteran leader, now 93. The arrest of O'Donovan and the seizure of her laptop in a dawn raid at her apartment on November 3 came just weeks after the government appointed a cybersecurity minister tasked with policing social media. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)
US journalist Martha O'Donovan (C), who was arrested on charges of insulting Zimbabwe's president and attempting to subvert the country's regime, talks with Zimbabwe Correctional Services officers as she leaves Chikurubi Maximum Prison near Harare, after being released on 1000 USD bail on November 10, 2017. Zimbabwe freed on November 9 a 25-year-old American journalist charged with subverting President Robert Mugabe on account of an alleged tweet that described the ageing leader as 'selfish and sick'. Martha O'Donovan had been charged with attempting to overthrow Mugabe as well as undermining or insulting the veteran leader, now 93. The arrest of O'Donovan and the seizure of her laptop in a dawn raid at her apartment on November 3 came just weeks after the government appointed a cybersecurity minister tasked with policing social media. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)
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Reuters witnesses saw O'Donovan leaving prison in a United States embassy vehicle. O'Donovan and her lawyers did not speak to reporters waiting outside Chikurubi Maximum Prison on the outskirts of Harare.

State prosecutors accuse O'Donovan of writing a Twitter post in October calling Mugabe a "selfish and sick man."

The government has since last year been targeting activists and government critics who use social media to speak out against Mugabe, cash shortages in banks and a foreign currency crunch that has caused a sharp rise in prices.

Amnesty International said it feared O'Donovan would not be the last to be arrested in the government's "clamp down on social media platforms."

Activist pastor Evan Mawarire, whose #ThisFlag movement last year organized the biggest stay-at-home demonstration in a decade, is on trial on a charge of subversion. He faces a separate trial for a similar offense.

17 PHOTOS
Zimbabwe drought crisis
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Zimbabwe drought crisis

A child drinks water from a cup in drought-hit Masvingo, Zimbabwe, June 1, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

A photo taken on February 7, 2016 shows the fast drying catchment area of the Umzingwani dam in Matabeleland, Southwestern Zimbabwe . Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe on February 5, 2016 declared a 'state of disaster' in many rural areas hit by a severe drought, with more than a quarter of the population facing food shortages.

(ZINIYANGE AUNTONY/AFP/Getty Images)

A donkey searches for water at a dry borehole in rural Masvingo, in this picture taken January 21, 2016. The United Nations World Food Programme said some 14 million people face hunger in southern Africa because of a drought that has been exacerbated by an El Nino weather pattern.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

A youth fetches water from a dam near Mount Darwin, Zimbabwe, October 26, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

Cattle stand over cracked earth as water levels drop in a dam near Mount Darwin, Zimbabwe, October 26, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

Villagers collect their monthly food aid provided by United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Bhayu, Zimbabwe, September 14, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

Villlagers collect water from a dam near Mount Darwin, Zimbabwe, October 26, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

Villagers collect water from a dry river bed in drought hit Masvingo, Zimbabwe, June 2, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Picture)

Villagers collect food aid provided by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) at a distribution point in Bhayu, Zimbabwe, September 14, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

Women gather grain spilled by cargo trucks from Zambia along a highway in Magunje, Zimbabwe, February 20, 2016. Earlier in the month Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe declared a state of disaster in most rural parts of the country severely hit by a drought.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

People wait to collect their monthly food ration provided by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Mwenezi district, Masvingo, Zimbabwe January 25, 2016. The WFP has said that some 14 million people face hunger in southern Africa because of a drought that has been exacerbated by an El Nino weather pattern.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

Branches protrude above water on the Kariba dam in Harare, Zimbabwe, February 19, 2016. Kariba, Zimbabwe's main hydro power dam could stop producing electricity in six months if water levels keep falling after the nation's worst drought in more than two decades, an official said. 

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

A motorist drives on top of the Kariba Dam wall in Kariba, Zimbabwe, February 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

A Zimbabwean man roasts maize for sale at the side of the road in the capital Harare, March 3, 2016. The number of Zimbabweans requiring food aid has risen to 4 million, up from 3 million initially, a state-owned newspaper said in March, as the southern African nation grapples with its worst drought in more than two decades.  

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

Villagers collect water from a dry river bed in drought hit Masvingo, Zimbabwe, June 2, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

A general view showing low water levels on the Kariba dam in Kariba, Zimbabwe, February 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

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(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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