Prosecutors at Spain’s top criminal court say they have opened a preliminary investigation into Luis Rubiales’s kiss of World Cup player Jenni Hermoso on the grounds it could constitute a crime of “sexual assault”.
“Prosecutors from the National Court have opened a preliminary investigation to look into the facts, which could constitute an offence of sexual assault,” a court statement said on Monday, indicating it would offer Hermoso a chance to file suit.
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After Spain won the Women’s World Cup in Sydney on August 20, Rubiales, the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), sparked a backlash after kissing Hermoso on the lips during the medals ceremony.
Hermoso later said the unwanted kiss had left her feeling “vulnerable and like the victim of an assault”. In a statement on social media, she described it as “an impulsive, macho act, out of place and with no type of consent on my part”.
The court said it was opening the investigation in light of the “unequivocal nature” of her statements, saying it was necessary “to determine their legal significance”.
“Given the public statements made by Jennifer Hermoso, the sexual act she was subjected to by Rubiales was not consensual,” the court statement said.
Legal experts would also contact the player “to offer her the option of legal action, giving her the chance to contact National Court prosecutors within 15 days for information about her rights as a victim of an alleged sexual assault … should she wish to file a complaint”, it said.
Rubiales, 46, has been defiant over the kiss – which has also been condemned by Hermoso’s teammates, several male players and the Spanish government.
At a federation meeting on Friday where he had been widely expected to step down, Rubiales instead refused to quit, seeking to defend his behaviour and calling the kiss “spontaneous, mutual, euphoric and consensual”.
RFEF has said Rubiales will defend himself to prove “his complete innocence”.
FIFA suspended Rubiales as RFEF’s president at the weekend, and he could face further sanctions in Spain, where the National Sports Council is to meet on Monday to discuss the complaints against him.