Embattled Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales could face up to four years in prison if convicted of sexual assault and coercion stemming from his allegedly unsolicited kiss on the lips of Women’s World cup winner Jenni Hermoso.
Spanish state prosecutors unveiled the criminal counts against Rubiales on Friday, three days after Hermoso lodged a formal complaint alleging sexual assault.
Rubiales was suspended from his job for 90 days by FIFA pending a probe by soccer’s governing body after planting a kiss on Hermoso during the awards ceremony following Spain’s victory over England in Women’s World Cup in Sydney last month.
Spanish prosecutors presented the case against Rubiales to the National Court in Madrid.
Rubiales could face a fine or a prison sentence of one to four years if found guilty of sexual assault, according to a law adopted last year that eliminated the difference between “sexual harassment” and “sexual assault.”
Prosecutors said Friday that Rubiales could have committed an act of coercion when, according to Hermoso, he and his “professional entourage” pressured the player and her family to say that she “justified and approved what happened.”
Rubiales has insisted the kiss was consensual and has refused to resign, claiming in a fiery speech that he was the victim of a “witch hunt” by “false feminists.”
Hermoso, 33, has denied that in statements issued by her and her players’ union.
Prosecutors have asked a judge that Rubiales appear before a court to give preliminary testimony.
If the National Court judge agrees to hear the case, it would lead to a formal court investigation that will end with a recommendation for the case to either be dismissed or go to trial.
Prosecutor Marta Durantez Gil also asked Australian authorities to clarify whether the incident would be considered a sexual crime in that country.
Besides a possible criminal trial, Rubiales also faces a government investigation to determine if he abused his authority by kissing Hermoso or tarnished the image of Spain with his actions.
The outcome of the probe could see the 46-year-old soccer boss declared unfit to hold his post for two years.
Rubiales’ antics at the final in Australia on Aug. 20, which included a lewd crotch grab while next to Spain’s queen and teenage princess, combined with his defiant speech have tainted the Women’s World Cup title and sparked widespread outrage in Spain.
Spain’s women’s players have said they won’t play again for their nation unless major changes are made in the federation.
The federation has since fired coach Jorge Vilda, an ally of Rubiales, but the players have yet to say if that was enough for them to return to the pitch.
Rubiales, a former player and former head of Spain’s biggest players’ union, has helmed the federation since 2018.
He has boosted revenues and funding for lower-level soccer and the women’s game, but his successes have been tinged with scandal.
Rubiales revolutionized the Spanish Super Cup in 2019 by taking it to Saudi Arabia — now the big draw for top European talent like Cristiano Ronaldo — in exchange for $40 million a year.
The move was criticized by women’s and human rights groups for the regime’s treatment of women and minorities.
Spanish authorities also scrutinized the deal, and an investigative judge is probing the legality of the Super Cup contracts.
With Post wires
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