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Ivorian activists urge legal support for woman accusing minister of rape

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Ivory Coast

The Ivorian League for Women's Rights asks for help with legal support for a woman accusing Ivorian Minister for Reconciliation Kouadio Konan Bertin of rape. According to the League's officials, the victim's lawyer has "withdrawn" and the association has no money to pay another lawyer.

"In this kind of case it's extremely, extremely difficult to get a lawyer to go with you. The name, the reputation of the clients, everything you can imagine is at stake. Also there is the obstacle of payment," said Carelle Goli, legal officer for the Ivorian League for Women's roghts at a press conference on Saturday.

Prosecutors in the country said Wednesday they had opened an investigation into a rape accusation against former presidential candidate and reconciliation minister Kouadio Konan Bertin.

"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.

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.

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

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