Spain’s High Court has imposed a restraining order to prevent former football chief Luis Rubiales from approaching national team player Jenni Hermoso, as he appeared in court to be investigated for sexual assault for kissing her on the lips.
The incident, which occurred at the medal ceremony after Spain’s women’s team won the World Cup in Sydney, Australia, on August 20, has triggered a furore over sexism in Spanish sport and society and prompted protests similar to the #MeToo movement.
Rubiales, 46, insists the kiss was consensual, while Hermoso says it was forced on her.
The order prevents Rubiales from trying to contact Hermoso or coming within 200 metres (0.12 miles) of her, according to a court statement. Judge Francisco de Jorge rejected a request by the prosecution that Rubiales should report to the court every two weeks.
Dressed in a black suit over a white shirt, Rubiales left the High Court in Madrid with his lawyer Olga Tubau following a closed-door investigative hearing that lasted about an hour. He did not speak to the media waiting outside.
His hearing came as the World Cup-winning footballers said they would continue their boycott of the national team unless there are more reforms at the Spanish football federation, despite Rubiales’s resignation over the affair.
Dozens of journalists were on hand as the 46-year-old left Madrid’s Audiencia Nacional court after he was questioned by Judge Francisco de Jorge who is heading up the investigation.
He was questioned at the closed-door hearing as a defendant in regards to allegations of “sexual assault”. Hermoso will also be called to testify at a later date.
The case comes about four weeks after Rubiales sparked outrage with the act in front of the world’s media after Spain defeated England in the final.
Rubiales was head of Spain’s RFEF football federation at the time.
Hermoso has said the kiss was not consensual and that it left her feeling like the “victim of an assault”.
De Jorge on Monday admitted a complaint against Rubiales filed the previous week by the public prosecutors’ office, citing alleged “offences of sexual assault” and “coercion”.
Under a recent reform of the Spanish penal code, a nonconsensual kiss can be considered sexual assault, a category which groups all types of sexual violence.
If found guilty, Rubiales could face anything from a fine to four years in prison, sources at the public prosecutors’ office have said.
In their complaint, prosecutors said they had included the offence of coercion because of Hermoso’s statement in which she said “she and those close to her had suffered constant ongoing pressure by Luis Rubiales and his professional entourage to justify and condone” his actions.
Rubiales also denied any coercion at the hearing.
The global furore over the incident all but eclipsed the victory celebrations for Spain’s World Cup champions.
After three weeks of refusing to resign over the kiss, Rubiales, who was suspended by FIFA on August 26, stood down on Sunday evening but continued to insist the kiss was consensual in a TV interview with Britain’s Piers Morgan.
“What we had is a spontaneous act, a mutual act, an act that both consented to, which was driven by the emotion of the moment,” he said, describing the kiss as “100 percent nonsexual”.
The hearing comes with new coach Montse Tome, the first woman to lead the team, set to announce her squad later on Friday for UEFA Women’s Nations League matches against Sweden and Switzerland on September 22 and 26.
But the 23 world champions and dozens of other players have informed the football federation that they will continue to reject national team call-ups unless there are more reforms, a source close to the federation said Friday.
The federation sacked their controversial coach Jorge Vilda in the wake of the outcry over Rubiales’s kiss, and named Tome in his stead. Tome was Vilda’s former assistant manager.
Spanish media said the players would later on Friday release a statement outlining the changes that they still expect to see before they return to the pitch.