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FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo/File Photo


HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe police on Friday charged a U.S. citizen on suspicion of insulting President Robert Mugabe by calling him a "selfish and sick man" on Twitter, the first arrest since the creation of a Ministry of Cyber Security last month, police papers showed.

Martha O'Donovan, who works for Magamba TV, which describes itself as Zimbabwe's leading producer of political satire, was picked up in a dawn raid on her Harare home, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said in a statement.

In a statement to police seen by Reuters, O'Donovan said:

"I deny the allegations being levelled against me as baseless and malicious. That is all I wish to say."

Police raided her home with a search warrant requiring O'Donovan to give up her computers, cellphones and other electronic devices.

Police accused the American of posting a message on Twitter last month that read, "we are being led by a selfish and sick man".

The police search warrant had shown that central to its investigation was a post on O'Donovan's Twitter feed referring to a "Goblin" whose wife and step-sons had imported a Rolls Royce, an apparent reference to 93-year-old Mugabe, though he was not named.

Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said she had no immediate information on the case. The U.S. embassy in Harare confirmed that an American citizen had been arrested and said it was monitoring the situation closely.

If convicted, O'Donovan faces a maximum of one year in jail, her lawyer said.

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe and Ed Cropley; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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