Spain’s World Cup-winning attacking midfielder Jenni Hermoso filed a complaint with state prosecutors on Tuesday for the non-consensual kiss she received from Luis Rubiales, the suspended president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), during the celebrations after the team’s victory in Australia. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, which opened an investigation into Rubiales at the end of August for a possible crime of sexual assault and invited Hermoso to formalize her complaint against the RFEF chief, prosecutors intend to start their own criminal proceedings in “the shortest possible time.” Rubiales has refused to step down from his position from the RFEF and has been placed on provisional suspension by world governing body FIFA.
The Rubiales case, which has transcended Spain and shaken world sport in recent weeks, now has a new open front. The complaint filed by Hermoso was a necessary requisite for the Prosecutor’s Office to be able to bring its own accusation against the RFEF president as Article 191.1 of the Spanish Penal Code establishes that, in order for prosecutors to act on alleged crimes of aggression, harassment, or sexual abuse, a complaint from the aggrieved person or their legal representative 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.
Moreover, in the opinion of the Prosecutor’s Office, jurisdiction should fall to the Spanish High Court (the Audiencia Nacional), as the alleged crime was committed on foreign territory by a Spaniard: the incident took place in Sydney, which hosted the World Cup final. Therefore, the case has landed on the desk of High Court assistant prosecutor Marta Durántez, who was present during Hermoso’s statement on Tuesday and who signed the order for the opening of a preliminary investigation proceedings into Rubiales in August.
In that 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.”
In that document, the deputy prosecutor stated that “the sexual act suffered” by the footballer “was not consensual,” based on the public statements that Hermoso had made, in which the player made it clear that she felt “vulnerable” in the face of Rubiales’ conduct and that she had been “the victim of an aggression.” The Penal Code provides for punishments of between one and four years in prison for anyone who performs any act that infringes on the sexual freedom of another person without their consent.
Rubiales’ actions have caused outrage in Spanish society and have attracted the attention of the global media. Meanwhile, Rubiales and his entourage have gone on the attack, accusing Hermoso of lying about the incident. In his appearance on August 25 before an extraordinary general assembly of the RFEF, Rubiales even presented himself as the victim of a witch hunt by “false feminists” and launched a tirade against members of the government who have called for his resignation, threatening legal action. “I will not resign, I will not resign, I will not resign, I will not resign!” he shouted at the assembly, leading to applause from many of those in attendance. Among them were Luis de la Fuente and Jorge Vilda, coaches of the Spain men’s and women’s national teams, respectively. Vilda has since been sacked from his position. The RFEF has announced that Montse Tomé, Vilda’s assistant coach, will be the new head of the national team.
Shows of solidarity with Hermoso and her teammates have been widespread, both in Spanish and international sports as well in politics, culture, and the media. FIFA’s disciplinary committee provisionally suspended Rubiales from “all activities related to soccer at national and international level” and prohibited him from any kind of contact with the RFEF to prevent him from applying pressure on the federation. The Spanish government has asked the Administrative Court of Sport (TAD) to adopt a similar decision due to the damage caused by Rubiales to Spain’s image, while the case brought against him for what the TAD considers “serious,” rather than“very serious,” misconduct is resolved.
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