September 26, 2023

Luis Rubiales appears before a judge probing a complaint of sexual assault over forcibly kissing player Jenni Hermoso.

Spain’s former football chief, Luis Rubiales, has appeared before a judge investigating a complaint of sexual assault over forcibly kissing Women’s World Cup player Jenni Hermoso.

His hearing came on Friday as the World Cup-winning footballers said they would continue their boycott of the national team unless there are more reforms at the Spanish football federation, despite Rubiales’ resignation over the affair.

Dozens of journalists were on hand as the 46-year-old left Madrid’s Audiencia Nacional court after he was questioned by Judge Francisco de Jorge who is heading up the investigation.

Rubiales did not speak to the press.

He was questioned at the closed-door hearing as a defendant in regards to allegations of “sexual assault”. Hermoso will also be called to testify at a later date.

At the hearing, Rubiales once again maintained the kiss was consensual, a judicial source said.

Public prosecutors, meanwhile, asked the judge to ban Rubiales from coming within 500 metres (1,600 feet) of Hermoso and communicating with her by any means while the investigation is under way, the source added.

The case comes about four weeks after Rubiales sparked outrage when he forcibly kissed the midfielder in front of the world’s media after Spain defeated England in the final.

Rubiales, who was head of Spain’s RFEF football federation at the time, has repeatedly insisted the kiss was consensual.

Hermoso has said it was not and that it left her feeling like the “victim of an assault”.

De Jorge on Monday admitted a complaint against Rubiales filed the previous week by the public prosecutors’ office, citing alleged “offences of sexual assault” and “coercion”.

Under a recent reform of the Spanish penal code, a non-consensual kiss can be considered sexual assault, a category which groups all types of sexual violence.

If found guilty, Rubiales could face anything from a fine to four years in prison, sources at the public prosecutors’ office have said.

In their complaint, prosecutors said they had included the offence of coercion because of Hermoso’s statement in which she said “she and those close to her had suffered constant ongoing pressure by Luis Rubiales and his professional entourage to justify and condone” his actions.

Rubiales also denied any coercion at the hearing.

The global furore over the incident all but eclipsed the victory celebrations for Spain’s World Cup champions.

After three weeks of refusing to resign over the kiss, Rubiales, who was suspended by FIFA on August 26, stood down on Sunday evening but continued to insist the kiss was consensual in a TV interview with Britain’s Piers Morgan.

‘Spontaneous act’

“What we had is a spontaneous act, a mutual act, an act that both consented to, which was driven by the emotion of the moment,” he said, describing the kiss as “100 percent non-sexual”.

The hearing comes with new coach Montse Tome, the first woman to lead the team, set to announce her squad later on Friday for UEFA Women’s Nations League matches against Sweden and Switzerland on September 22 and 26.

But the 23 world champions and dozens of other players have informed the football federation that they will continue to reject national team call-ups unless there are more reforms, a source close to the federation said Friday.

The federation sacked their controversial coach Jorge Vilda in the wake of the outcry over Rubiales’ kiss, and named Tome in his stead. Tome was Vilda’s former assistant manager.

Spanish media said the players would later on Friday release a statement outlining the changes that they still expect to see before they return to the pitch.

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