The mother of embattled Spanish football federation (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales has locked herself in a church and said she is on hunger strike in protest at her son’s treatment, Rubiales’ cousin confirmed on Monday.
Ángeles Béjar shut herself inside the church of the Divine Shepherdess in Rubiales’ hometown of Motril, Andalusia, on Monday, EFE reported.
She said her protest would continue until the “inhuman, bloodthirsty witch hunt which my son is being subjected to” came to an end.
Rubiales was handed a provisional 90-day suspension from all football-related activities by FIFA on Friday — while Spain’s Supreme Sports Council is also seeking to have him removed from office — over his behaviour after Spain’s Women’s World Cup final win, including his unsolicited kiss on Spain player Jenni Hermoso.
Rubiales has refused to resign over the issue, insisting that the kiss was consensual — a claim denied by the player — and threatening legal action against Hermoso and her union, Futpro.
Spain prosecutors said they have opened a preliminary sexual abuse investigation into the incident.
Béjar told EFE her protest would continue “indefinitely, day and night” until Rubiales was vindicated.
She added: “There is no sexual abuse since there is consent on both sides, as the images prove. … My son is incapable of hurting anyone.”
The news agency reported that she had locked herself inside the church in Motril — a town with a population of around 60,000, in the province of Granada — with her sister, after its priest had left.
Rubiales’ cousin, Vanessa Ruiz Béjar, confirmed to Teledeporte that his mother was on hunger strike, saying: “This is very hard. To say that there is a harassment is not fair.
“That his mom, who is a person of great faith, has taken refuge in God and is on a hunger strike and does not want to leave the church. That his family is suffering very much on his behalf. It is not fair what is happening.
“He has been judged ahead of time and he should be left in peace. We want Jenni to tell the truth. Why has she changed her story three times? Our family has been harassed. This woman should tell the truth. Jenni, you should tell the truth. We want Jenni to tell the truth.
“The way they are treating with him, the aggression, the feminists, the television, it seems to me shameful. All the people who are taking advantage of the situation, it is shameful.”
A friendly football match dubbed the “Friends of Rubiales” that was supposed to take place in Motril and feature the RFEF president was canceled on Saturday, with the local town hall citing fears over public order.
Rubiales’ conduct and subsequent refusal to accept responsibility for his actions have drawn widespread condemnation — both within Spain and internationally from football clubs, players and politicians.
Spain’s Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz said on Monday that male chauvinism was “systemic” in the country and had been shown in its worst form.
Díaz, who is also deputy prime minister and head of the far-left Sumar coalition, called for social attitudes to change more generally in Spain and for victims of sexual harassment and violence to be better protected.
On Monday, the RFEF asked UEFA to suspend it from international competitions because of government interference over demands to remove Rubiales.
Football governing bodies have long-standing rules barring national governments from interfering with the running of the domestic federations. However, UEFA will not comply with the Spanish federation’s request for a sanction, a person familiar with the issue told The Associated Press on Monday.
The move was widely seen as an attempt to silence some of Rubiales’ critics, including government ministers who have asked for his removal, as such a suspension would ban Spanish teams from competitions like the Champions League and could sway public opinion in favor of letting him keep his job.