Spanish soccer boss Luis Rubiales faces sex assault probe as his mother begins hunger strike

Spanish soccer boss Luis Rubiales faces sex assault probe as his mother begins hunger strike

Tuesday 29/08/2023
Luis Rubiales and Jenni Hermoso after the world cup final in Sydney.(Reuters: Hannah Mckay)

Prosecutors in Spain have launched an investigation into the country's football federation president Luis Rubiales, as the storm surrounding his kissing of player Jenni Hermoso intensifies.

On Monday, Spain's top criminal court — the Audiencia Nacional — said prosecutors had "opened a preliminary investigation to look into the facts, which could constitute an offence of sexual assault".

Prosecutors said Hermoso has 15 days for lodge a formal complaint.

There have been escalating calls for Mr Rubiales to resign.

They stemmed from when he grabbed and kissed Hermoso on stage at Stadium Australia in Sydney, after Spain won the FIFA Women's World Cup on August 20.

He has, so far, refused to do so and says the kiss was consensual.

However Hermoso has said that was not the case.

Mr Rubiales is fronting an urgent meeting of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) on Monday, which started in the afternoon and was still going at 9pm local time.

The federation had also requested the sport's European governing body UEFA expel it over the crisis, which would mean Spanish clubs couldn't compete in major tournaments.

However, UEFA declined.

Rubiales could be removed by Spain's sports tribunal, which has the power to resolve legal deadlocks.

The country's Sports Secretary Victor Francos on Monday said that process was yet to be finalised.


People demand Luis Rubiales' resignation in Madrid on Monday.(Reuters: Isabel Infantes)

Mother goes on hunger strike

The incident took a bizarre turn earlier on Monday when Mr Rubiales' mother, Angeles Bejar, told state news agency EFE she was going on a hunger strike until a "solution is found to the inhumane and bloody hunt they are carrying out against my son".

She locked herself in a church in Mr Rubiales' hometown in the country's south, where she plans to starve herself.

Mr Rubiales' cousin, Demeiza Bejar Sanchez, described the hunger strike as "logical and normal".

"She could get sick. But she's his mother, and mothers know that when (your son) is being treated unfairly and is being attacked, it's normal for a mother as faithful as she is to ask God for help," she said.

"A point comes where you're overtaken with desperation and you don't know where else to look. It's logical and normal."

On Saturday, the sport's global governing body FIFA provisionally suspended Mr Rubiales for 90 days.

The suspension means he cannot participate in "football-related activities at national and international level" or contact Hermoso.

Feminist groups staged demonstrations in Madrid on Sunday and Monday, denouncing Mr Rubiales' behaviour, with hundreds in attendance.

Mr Rubiales on Friday doubled down on his actions and refused to resign.

On Monday, Spain's acting deputy prime minister Yolanda Diaz met with the union representing footballers in the country and later held a press conference where she said the country had a problem with "systemic" chauvinism.

Last week, the RFEF was rocked by a string of prominent resignations connected with its women's team.

Four assistant coaches that had just won the World Cup quit, as did the federation's vice-president Rafael del Amo, who oversaw Spain's women's set-up.

Prior to Monday's meeting, the RFEF had backed Mr Rubiales.

All of Spain's World Cup squad, as well as dozens of other players, also said they would not play for the national team while Mr Rubiales was still in a job.

By Riley Stuart in London

Original article link:

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