Sunday, June 16, 2024

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    Spain’s Former Football Chief Faces Restraining Order Amidst Sexual Assault Investigation

    Luis Rubiales, the former head of Spain's football federation, is under investigation for alleged sexual assault after kissing national team player Jenni Hermoso.

    In a significant legal development that has rocked the world of Spanish football, Spain’s High Court has issued a restraining order against former football chief Luis Rubiales. This action comes in the midst of a sexual assault investigation related to an incident involving national team player Jenni Hermoso, where Rubiales kissed her on the lips.

    The incident in question occurred during the medal ceremony following Spain’s women’s team’s victory in the World Cup held in Sydney, Australia, on August 20. Since then, it has ignited a firestorm of controversy surrounding issues of sexism within Spanish sport and society and has sparked protests reminiscent of the #MeToo movement.

    Rubiales, aged 46, maintains that the kiss was consensual, while Hermoso asserts that it was forced upon her against her will.

    The restraining order imposed on Rubiales prohibits him from attempting to contact Hermoso or coming within 200 meters (0.12 miles) of her, according to a court statement. Notably, the prosecution’s request that Rubiales should report to the court every two weeks was rejected by Judge Francisco de Jorge.

    Dressed in a black suit and white shirt, Rubiales departed from the High Court in Madrid accompanied by his lawyer, Olga Tubau, following a one-hour closed-door investigative hearing. He did not address the media assembled outside the court.

    These developments coincide with the announcement by the World Cup-winning footballers that they intend to continue their boycott of the national team unless significant reforms are instituted within the Spanish football federation, despite Rubiales’s resignation in the wake of the controversy.

    Dozens of journalists were present as Rubiales left Madrid’s Audiencia Nacional court after being questioned by Judge Francisco de Jorge, who leads the investigation. Hermoso will also be summoned to provide testimony at a later date.

    This case comes approximately four weeks after Rubiales sparked outrage with his actions in front of the global media following Spain’s victory over England in the final. At that time, Rubiales was at the helm of Spain’s RFEF football federation.

    Hermoso, in her statement, has emphasized that the kiss was not consensual and left her feeling like the “victim of an assault.”

    Judge Francisco de Jorge acknowledged the complaint against Rubiales filed by the public prosecutor’s office, which cited alleged “offenses of sexual assault” and “coercion.” Under recent amendments to the Spanish penal code, a nonconsensual kiss can be categorized as sexual assault, encompassing various forms of sexual violence.

    Should Rubiales be found guilty, he could face penalties ranging from fines to a prison sentence of up to four years, according to sources within the public prosecutors’ office.

    The complaint lodged by the prosecutors includes the charge of coercion, based on Hermoso’s statement indicating that she and her associates experienced ongoing pressure from Luis Rubiales and his professional entourage to endorse and justify his actions. Rubiales, however, refuted any allegations of coercion during the hearing.

    The international uproar surrounding this incident has largely overshadowed the celebrations for Spain’s World Cup champions. Despite initially refusing to step down in the wake of the controversy, Rubiales, who was suspended by FIFA on August 26, eventually resigned on Sunday evening. He continues to assert that the kiss was consensual in a televised interview with Britain’s Piers Morgan, describing it as “100 percent nonsexual” and a spontaneous, mutual act driven by the emotion of the moment.

    As these legal proceedings unfold, the appointment of Montse Tome, the first woman to lead the national team, as the new coach takes center stage. She is expected to announce her squad for UEFA Women’s Nations League matches against Sweden and Switzerland on September 22 and 26.

    However, the 23 world champions and numerous other players have informed the football federation that they will persist in rejecting national team call-ups unless significant reforms are enacted, according to a source close to the federation. Following the dismissal of their controversial coach, Jorge Vilda, amid the outcry over Rubiales’s actions, Tome was named as his successor, having previously served as his assistant manager.

    Spanish media reports suggest that the players will release a statement outlining their expectations for reforms before returning to the pitch.

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