By Ciaran Giles | Associated Press
MADRID — The mother of Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales started a hunger strike Monday in a church in southern Spain in defense of her son, who is under fire for kissing a player during the Women’s World Cup awards ceremony.
Ángeles Béjar told the state news agency EFE she would remain on hunger strike “night and day” until a solution is found to the “inhumane hounding” of her son.
Speaking outside the church in the southern town of Motril, Rubiales’ cousin, Vanessa Ruiz, joined his mother in calling on the player, Jenni Hermoso, to “tell the truth.”
Hermoso has denied Rubiales’ claim that she consented to what he called the “mutual” kiss during the Aug. 20 medal ceremony after the Spanish women’s team won the final in Sydney, Australia.
In a statement Saturday Hermoso said she considered herself the victim of abuse of power and accused the Spanish soccer federation of trying to pressure her into supporting Rubiales. The federation hit back by saying she was lying and that it would take legal action against her.
On Monday, the National Court’s Prosecutors Office said it was opening a preliminary investigation into whether the kiss constituted a sexual aggression offense and said it would give Hermoso 15 days to file a formal complaint as an alleged victim of sexual aggression.
Rubiales came in for a storm of criticism following the kiss which was interpreted by many as sexual abuse. Earlier during the medal celebrations, Rubiales also grabbed his crotch in a victory gesture while in the presidential box and close to Spain’s Queen Letizia and her teenage daughter, Princess Sofia.
FIFA, the world soccer body, provisionally suspended him on Saturday for 90 days after he gave a defiant speech and refused to resign.
Spain is hoping the country’s sports tribunal will remove him definitively.
The scandal has caused a commotion both in Spain and abroad.
Acting deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz met Monday with soccer union representatives with a view to removing Rubiales and changing the way equality issues are managed in Spanish soccer. “There has to be a profound renewal of the sporting structure in our country,” she said at a news conference.
FIFA suspends Spain soccer federation president Luis Rubiales for 90 days after World Cup final kiss
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The Spanish soccer federation was to meet with regional federations about what steps to take following FIFA’s temporary suspension of their leader. An anti-Rubiales protest was also planned for later Monday in Madrid.
Meanwhile, the archbishopric for the southern province of Granada, which oversees the church where Rubiales’ mother was under hunger strike, told The Associated Press it would have no comment on her action.
AP writers Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, Spain, and Luis Andres Henao in Princeton, N.J., contributed to this report.