The Prosecutor’s Office of Spain’s High Court, the Audiencia Nacional, has announced it will open a preliminary investigation against Luis Rubiales, the president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), for the alleged non-consensual kiss with Spain midfielder Jenni Hermoso during post-match celebrations at the World Cup final in Australia.
The Prosecutor’s Office has been studying six separate formal complaints filed by individuals and associations, but was reluctant to open investigation proceedings in the absence of a complaint from the player herself. A statement issued Friday by Hermoso, in which she confirmed that she felt “vulnerable” and the “victim of an aggression,” has changed the judicial course of the case against Rubiales, who has been suspended from his position.
In the order signed Monday, the Prosecutor’s Office invited Hermoso to formalize the complaint she voiced in public last week, when she confirmed in a statement that the kiss was not consensual. Hermoso has 15 days to contact the court so that she can be “informed of her rights as a victim of an alleged crime of sexual aggression” under article 178 of the Spanish Penal Code, which covers any act that infringes on the sexual freedom of another person without his or her consent and is punishable by between one and four years in prison.
The investigation against Rubiales is, for now, pre-procedural, meaning there is not yet an open case against the RFEF chief; instead, an initial investigation will be undertaken to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to recommend further action. The Prosecutor’s Office understands that “the sexual act suffered” by Hermoso “was not consensual.”
“Bloody and inhumane hounding”
Meanwhile, the mother of the Spanish soccer federation president has started a hunger strike in a church in southern Spain in defense of her son. Ángeles Béjar, mother of Rubiales, told the state news agency EFE she would remain on hunger strike “night and day” until a solution is found to “the bloody and inhumane hounding” of her son.
Speaking outside the church in the southern town of Motril, Rubiales’ cousin, Vanessa Ruiz, joined his mother in calling on the player, Jenni Hermoso, to “tell the truth.” She said the family was suffering greatly and she described Rubiales as “a beautiful person.”
Rubiales came in for a storm of criticism following the kiss which was interpreted by many as a form of sexual abuse. The incident happened during the medal ceremony after the final last Sunday in Sydney, Australia.
Earlier during the celebrations, Rubiales also grabbed his crotch in a victory gesture while in the presidential box and close to the queen of Spain and her teenage princess daughter.
FIFA, the world soccer body, provisionally suspended him on Saturday for 90 days after he gave a defiant speech and refused to resign.
On Saturday, Rubiales said that Hermoso had consented to the “mutual” kiss. Hermoso replied in two statements to say that was false and that she considered herself the victim of an abuse of power. She also accused the federation of trying to pressure her into supporting Rubiales. The federation hit back by saying she was lying and that it would take legal action against her.
The scandal has caused a commotion both in Spain and abroad. An anti-Rubiales protest was to be held later Monday in Madrid.
The legal case against Rubiales
Article 191.1 of Spain's Penal Code establishes that in order to proceed for crimes of aggression, harassment, or sexual abuse, “a complaint from the aggrieved person, from their legal representative, or from the Public Prosecutor’s Office” is required. In practice, the Prosecutor’s Office only acts ex officio in cases when the victims are minors or especially vulnerable, such as disabled persons. As such, sources from the Prosecutor’s Office indicate that if Hermoso refuses to file a complaint, the case will probably be shelved.
The six complaints received by the Public Prosecutor’s Office consider that Rubiales’ actions constitute a crime against the sexual freedom of the player. One of the complaints also points out the existence of “obscene exhibitionism in front of a minor,” in reference to a crotch-grabbing gesture made by Rubiales in the VIP box at Stadium Australia, which hosted the World Cup final, in the presence of Spain’s Princess Sofía.
In its brief, the prosecutor describes how Rubiales kissed Hermoso on the mouth “while grabbing the player’s head with both hands,” noting the criteria laid out last March in the reform of crimes against sexual freedom to include “kisses on the mouth.” It also cites the 2011 Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, in which Spain assumes the commitment to “protect women against all forms of violence and to prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women.”
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