MADRID: Spanish public prosecutors have filed a lawsuit against football chief Luis Rubiales (pix) for sexual assault and coercion after he kissed player Jenni Hermoso on the lips without her consent, the prosecutors office said Friday.
Spanish football federation (RFEF) president Rubiales, 46, sparked a worldwide backlash after forcibly kissing Hermoso during the medal ceremony following Spain's Women's World Cup triumph in Sydney on August 20.
“The prosecutors request that Luis Rubiales be questioned as an accused (party) and Jenni Hermoso as a victim,“ the prosecutors office said in a statement.
The move comes after Hermoso, 33, filed a complaint at the National Court on Tuesday, formally accusing Rubiales of sexual assault.
A judge at the court must now decide whether to accept or archive the request.
If the judge accepts the request, a magistrate will be assigned to head an investigation which will end either with a recommendation for the case to go to trial or be dismissed.
Under Spanish law, sexual assault includes a wide array of crimes from online abuse and groping to rape, each with different penalties. The punishment for a non-consensual kiss can range from a fine to four years in prison.
Hermoso, who plays for Mexican club Pachuca, has said the unwanted kiss had left her feeling “vulnerable and like the victim of an assault”, with a statement on social media describing it as “an impulsive, macho act, out of place and with no type of consent on my part”.
She has also accused Rubiales of pressuring her to speak out in his defense immediately after the scandal over the kiss erupted, which prosecutors said could be considered a crime of coercion.
Rubiales insists the kiss was consensual.
World football governing body FIFA provisionally suspended Rubiales for 90 days after he refused to resign from his post.
Some 81 players went on strike from the women’s side in protest after Rubiales’ fierce defensive speech following the incident, in which he railed against “false feminism”.
They said they would not return until the RFEF's leadership was changed -- controversial women's coach Jorge Vilda was sacked this week.
Spain's top sports court (TAD) also agreed to investigate Rubiales after the government lodged a complaint.
However the suspended chief said he would continue to defend himself “to prove the truth” over his kiss with Hermoso.
In a statement last week Rubiales reiterated that the kiss was “a mutual and consensual act” with “overflowing jubilation on both sides”.
The RFEF apologised for the “totally unacceptable behaviour” of Rubiales on Tuesday and fired Vilda on Tuesday in the wake of the scandal.
Vilda's former assistant Montserrat Tome is the new coach -- it is the first time a woman has led the team.
The world champions' next matches are in Nations League qualifying against Sweden and Switzerland on September 22 and 26 respectively. -AFP