Barcelona, Spain— Spanish state prosecutors have filed a lawsuit against Luis Rubiales for sexual assault and coercion for kissing a player on the lips without her consent after the Women’s World Cup final, the country’s prosecutors’ office said Friday. Rubiales, the now-suspended president of the Spanish soccer federation, kissed Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the awards ceremony after Spain beat England to win the title on Aug. 20 in Sydney, Australia.
Prosecutors presented the suit to Spain’s National Court in Madrid two days after Hermoso formally accused Rubiales of sexual assault.
He has dismissed the outcry as a “witch hunt” by “false feminists” and insisted that it was a consensual kiss — which Hermoso herself has directly refuted. Rubiales has refused to resign amid multiple ongoing investigations into his conduct.
Hermoso accused Rubiales earlier this week of sexual assault and has always denied that the kiss was consensual, in statements issued by her and her players’ union. She also said she and her family were pressured by the federation to show her support for Rubiales in the immediate aftermath of the scandal caused by the kiss that tarnished her team’s victory.
The prosecutors’ office in Madrid has said that, according to a sexual consent law passed last year, Rubiales could face a fine or a prison sentence of one to four years if found guilty. The new law eliminated the difference between “sexual harassment” and “sexual assault,” sanctioning any unconsented sexual act.
Spain’s government, players’ unions, players and many citizens have come out in support of Hermoso. Rubiales, meanwhile, has become a soccer outcast even while he refuses to resign.
Rubiales was suspended from his post by FIFA on August 27, a day after he refused to step down when he delivered a defiant speech to the general assembly of his federation in which he portrayed himself as a victim. He was banned from his post for 90 days while the body’s disciplinary judges consider his case. FIFA can impose sanctions on individuals ranging from warnings and fines to suspensions from the sport.
Rubiales, 46, also faces action from the Spanish government. A government legal panel overseeing sports has opened a probe to determine if he abused his authority by kissing Hermoso or tainted the image of Spain with his conduct. He faces being deemed unfit to hold his post for up to two years.
He could also face a no-confidence vote by the federation, a move that the institution has yet to make despite having asked him to resign.
But the decision by Hermoso represents the biggest challenge to Rubiales so far since it could lead to a criminal case.
The prosecutor’s office said Hermoso made the accusation on Tuesday. Prosecutors had said last week that they were going to meet with Hermoso to give her the opportunity to present an accusation against Rubiales.
Hermoso, a 33-year-old forward, now plays for Mexican club Pachuca after a long career with top Spanish and European clubs, including Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid.