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’s presidential election.

“The young woman filed a complaint with the police. A (judicial) investigation is under way,” the prosecutor’s office said, adding that Bertin had filed a suit against her for libel.

“The two cases will be handled concurrently,” 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 “nothing to reproach myself for.”

He added, “This is a criminal case which is in the hands of justice.”

Bertin, 52, commonly known by his initials of KKB, was the only contender against presidential incumbent Alassane Ouattara in last October’s elections.

Other candidates boycotted the poll in protest at Ouattara’s 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 — a post aimed at healing the country’s 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’Bella had asked a man described as a former rapist to demonstrate, using a mannequin, how he violated his victims.

De M’Bella was handed a suspended jail sentence of 12 months for “condoning rape” while his guest was given a two-year term.

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