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28 Aug, 2023 17:27

Sexual assault probe opened against Spanish football chief

Luis Rubiales could be prosecuted after a “non-consensual” kiss on a female player’s lips
Sexual assault probe opened against Spanish football chief

Prosecutors in Spain announced on Monday that an investigation has been opened to determine if national football federation president Luis Rubiales can be prosecuted for sexual crimes, after he kissed a female player on the lips following the Spanish women’s team’s World Cup win this month.

“Prosecutors from the National Court have opened a preliminary investigation to look into the facts, which could constitute an offence of sexual assault,” a statement issued by Spain’s top criminal court said.

Spanish football federation (RFEF) boss Rubiales was suspended for 90 days by international football’s governing body FIFA on Saturday, a little under a week after he sparked condemnation for forcibly kissing female player Jennifer Hermoso on the lips in the moments after Spain’s World Cup final win against England on August 20.

Rubiales later stated that the kiss was “consensual,” but this was disputed by Hermoso, who said that the incident had left her feeling “vulnerable and like the victim of a sexual assault.” She added on social media that the “impulsive, macho act” occurred with “no type of consent on my part.”

In its statement on Monday, Spain’s National Court said that it would determine the “legal significance” of Hermoso’s comments on the issue. “Given the public statements made by Jennifer Hermoso, the sexual act she was subjected to by Rubiales was not consensual.” 

However, it was added that it would be “difficult” for prosecutors to pursue the case unless Hermoso files an independent legal claim. The court said that it had received six formal complaints about the offending kiss, though none had come from Hermoso.

Meanwhile, Spanish media reports indicated on Monday that Rubiales’ mother has locked herself inside a church, where she has begun a hunger-strike to protest against the “inhumane, bloodthirsty hunt” of her son.

Angeles Bejar said that she would remain inside the church in Motril, close to Granada in southern Spain, “indefinitely, day and night” until Rubiales was formally cleared of any impropriety.

In response to the scandal, RFEF vice-president Rafael del Amo and 11 members of the Spanish female team’s coaching staff resigned, while Hermoso and her World Cup-winning teammates said that they will not represent the national team again until Rubiales is stood down from his position.

The RFEF has indicated its support for Rubiales, and has threatened legal action against Hermoso.