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Spain soccer president’s mother goes on hunger strike over ‘witch hunt’

(Maja Hitij/FIFA via Getty Images)

The mother of Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales has gone on a hunger strike in protest of what she called an “inhuman, bloodthirsty witch hunt” against her son.

Ángeles Béjar shut herself inside the church of the Divine Shepherdess in Rubiales’ hometown of Motril, Spain, on Monday, EFE reported. Rubiales’ cousin confirmed the news. On Friday, Rubiales was suspended 90 days by FIFA over his unsolicited kiss of star midfielder Jenni Hermoso at the World Cup final, while the Spanish government’s sports council is seeking his removal from office.

Rubiales has refused to resign, insisting that his kiss of Hermoso was consensual. Hermoso, meanwhile, has maintained that it was not, and has been threatened with legal action by Rubiales and the RFEF.

Béjar has said her protest will continue “indefinitely, day and night,” until her son was vindicated, EFE reported. “There is no sexual abuse since there is consent on both sides, as the images prove,” she told the Spanish news agency. “My son is incapable of hurting anyone.”

Rubiales’ cousin, Vanessa Ruiz Béjar, confirmed the news to Teledeporte, saying of the situation: “To say that there is 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,” she continued. “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.”

Rubiales’ refusal to quit was met with the resignation of 11 members of the coaching staff for the women’s team. After the mass resignation, head coach Jorge Vilda finally condemned Rubiales’ actions, though he has not resigned. Many club teams, including those in the NWSL and Spain’s La Liga, showed their support for Hermoso over the weekend.

In response, the Spanish football federation has called an “extraordinary and urgent” meeting over the situation. That meeting is scheduled for Monday, with the agenda described as “analyzing and evaluating the current situation.”

Acting equality minister Irene Montero called for an “exemplary response” on Monday, noting that “all of [Spanish] society” expects for action to be taken.

Prosecutors in Spain have opened a preliminary sex abuse investigation into Rubiales’ actions.