Just five days after stepping down from his role as the head of Spain’s football federation, Luis Rubiales is scheduled to appear in court on Friday to face charges of sexual assault for forcibly kissing women’s World Cup player, Jenni Hermoso. The 46-year-old has been summoned to Madrid’s Audiencia Nacional court at midday (1000 GMT) where he will be questioned by Judge Francisco de Jorge, who is overseeing the investigation.
During the closed-door hearing, Rubiales will be questioned as a defendant in relation to the allegations of “sexual assault,” as stated in a court announcement earlier this week. Jenni Hermoso will also be called to testify at a later date.
This case arises just a month after Rubiales drew widespread condemnation for forcefully kissing the midfielder in front of the global media following Spain’s victory over England in the final on August 20. At the time, Rubiales was the head of Spain’s RFEF football federation, and he has consistently maintained that the kiss was consensual. However, Hermoso has countered, stating that it was not consensual and made her feel like the “victim of an assault.”
Judge de Jorge acknowledged a complaint against Rubiales submitted by the public prosecutor’s office on Monday, citing alleged “offenses of sexual assault” and “coercion.” According to recent changes in the Spanish penal code, a non-consensual kiss can be classified as sexual assault, which encompasses various forms of sexual violence. If convicted, Rubiales could face penalties ranging from a fine to up to four years in prison, according to sources at the public prosecutor’s office.
In their complaint, prosecutors explained that they included the charge of coercion due to Hermoso’s statement, in which she detailed that she and those close to her experienced ongoing pressure from Luis Rubiales and his professional circle to justify and excuse his actions.
The incident generated widespread international attention, overshadowing the celebrations for Spain’s World Cup victory. After initially refusing to resign over the kiss for three weeks, Rubiales, who was suspended by FIFA on August 26, ultimately stepped down on Sunday. He continued to assert in a TV interview with Britain’s Piers Morgan that the kiss was consensual, characterizing it as “100 percent non-sexual.”
This hearing coincides with the appointment of the new coach, Montse Tome, the first woman to lead the team. She is set to announce her squad for UEFA Women’s Nations League matches against Sweden and Switzerland on September 22 and 26. Her initial challenge will be to convince the 23 world champions to represent the national team again, as they and numerous others previously indicated they would not do so without significant changes in the federation’s leadership. The players have not yet revealed their stance following Rubiales’ resignation, but the situation has evolved since the RFEF dismissed their controversial coach, Jorge Vilda, named Tome as his successor, and pledged further internal reforms.
“We have had discussions… I don’t think there will be any problem,” stated Rafael del Amo, head of the RFEF’s women’s football committee in an interview with Cope radio on Tuesday. “I think things will move forward.”