Prosecutors in Ivory Coast said Wednesday they had opened an investigation into a prominent minister who had been accused of rape by a young woman.
The probe focuses on the minister for reconciliation, Kouadio Konan Bertin, who also contested last year‚Äôs presidential election.
‚ÄúThe young woman filed a complaint with the police. A (judicial) investigation is under way,‚ÄĚ the prosecutor‚Äôs office said, adding that Bertin had filed a suit against her for libel.
‚ÄúThe two cases will be handled concurrently,‚ÄĚ the office said.
In an audio message disseminated on the internet on Monday, an Ivorian-Cameroonian artist who said she had worked with Bertin alleged that in April she had been forcibly taken to Divo, a town 200 kilometres (120 miles) west of Abidjan, where she was raped.
Questioned about the allegation late Tuesday on the national TV station RTI, Bertin said he had ‚Äúnothing to reproach myself for.‚ÄĚ
He added, ‚ÄúThis is a criminal case which is in the hands of justice.‚ÄĚ
Bertin, 52, commonly known by his initials of KKB, was the only contender against presidential incumbent Alassane Ouattara in last October‚Äôs elections.
Other candidates boycotted the poll in protest at Ouattara‚Äôs bid for a third term, which they said sidestepped the constitution.
Bertin, who picked up only 1.99 percent of the vote, was appointed minister of national reconciliation two months later ‚ÄĒ a post aimed at healing the country‚Äôs dangerous political rift.
The high-profile allegation comes on the heels of a television show that sparked nationwide outrage in August by seeming to make light of rape.
TV host Yves de M‚ÄôBella had asked a man described as a former rapist to demonstrate, using a mannequin, how he violated his victims.
De M‚ÄôBella was handed a suspended jail sentence of 12 months for ‚Äúcondoning rape‚ÄĚ while his guest was given a two-year term.
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