Rubiales's mother starts hunger strike over 'hunt' on son
The mother of Spanish soccer chief Luis Rubiales on Monday locked herself inside a church and started a hunger strike to protest against what she called her son's "inhumane treatment" over his grabbing and kissing player Jenni Hermoso, EFE news agency reported.
Rubiales, who is head of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), was suspended on Saturday by FIFA amid a furore after he kissed Hermoso on the mouth during the awards ceremony following Spain's World Cup win in Sydney on Aug. 20. Hermoso says she did not want to be kissed.
RFEF has called regional federations to an urgent meeting on Monday to evaluate the situation, which has spiralled into a national argument over women's rights and macho behaviour.
Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz was also due to meet on Monday with representatives of the women's players' union FUTPRO, which represents Hermoso, and the Association of Spanish Footballers to ensure football is a sector "that has decent conditions and spaces free of sexist violence".
Rubiales' mother Angeles Bejar said her strike would last "until a solution is found to the inhumane and bloody hunt they are carrying out against my son with something he does not deserve", according to EFE.
According to EFE, Bejar, who also asked Hermoso to tell the truth and "stick to the version she gave at the beginning", was staying inside the parish church of Divina Pastora in Rubiales' hometown in Motril, southern Spain, with her sister after the parish priest left.
"There is no sexual abuse since there is consent on both sides, as the images prove," Bejar told EFE. She questioned "why they're taking it out on him" and what "is behind this whole story".
"My son is incapable of hurting anyone," Bejar said.
Rubiales, 46, has been defiant over the kiss - which has been condemned as unwanted by Hermoso, her team mates and the Spanish government - arguing it was consensual.
At a federation meeting on Friday where he had been widely expected to step down, Rubiales instead refused to quit, seeking to defend his behaviour and calling the kiss "spontaneous, mutual, euphoric and consensual".
RFEF has said Rubiales will defend himself legally to prove "his complete innocence".
Hermoso said she did not consent to the kiss and felt "vulnerable and the victim of an aggression".
Gender issues have become a prominent topic in Spain in recent years. Tens of thousands of women have taken part in street marches protesting against sexual abuse and violence, and the Socialist-led coalition government has presided over legal reforms including around equal pay or abortion rights.
Feminist groups have called a demonstration on Monday in Madrid entitled "With You Jenni". Hundreds of people staged a demonstration on Sunday in Salamanca against Rubiales.
The Spanish government cannot fire Rubiales but has strongly denounced his actions and said on Friday it was seeking to get him suspended using a legal procedure before a sports tribunal.
All 23 of Spain's cup-winning squad including Hermoso, as well as dozens of other squad members, said on Friday they would not play internationals while Rubiales remained head of the federation. Their next match is away to Sweden in the Nations League on Sept. 22.