Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari has been executed after being convicted of stabbing a security guard to death during anti-government protests in 2018.
Iran’s Supreme Court rejected a review of the case in late August
Navid Afkari’s family and activists said he was tortured into making a false confession
The World Players Association called for Iran’s expulsion from world sport if it executed Afkari
The case led to an international outcry which included US President Donald Trump calling for the 27-year-old’s life to be spared.
Afkari was executed Saturday morning (local time) “after legal procedures were carried out at the insistence of the parents and the family of the victim”, Iranian state media quoted the head of the justice department in southern Fars province, Kazem Mousavi, as saying.
The Greco-Roman wrestler was convicted of killing Hassan Turkman, a water company security guard.
Iran’s Supreme Court rejected a review of the case in late August after Afkari’s family and activists said he was tortured into making a false confession.
Afkari’s lawyer said there was no proof of his guilt and accused authorities of denying his client a family visit before the execution, as required by law.
“Were you in so much hurry to execute the sentence that you also deprived Navid of a last meeting?” Hassan Younesi posted on Twitter.
There was no immediate reaction by Iranian officials to the attorney’s accusation.
“In terms of red-ball cricket, I don’t think it’s realistic to play Test cricket again,” Finch said last week.
“Just based on two things — the amount of opportunity to play four-day cricket and force a claim, I think, is going to be really limited; and also the young batters coming through, there are some seriously good players in Australia, especially top-order batters.
“The talent depth is really, really strong at the moment so I don’t think that’s an opportunity to be honest.”
When looking back on the circumstances surrounding Finch’s short-lived Test career, the truth behind his honest admission is bitterly cruel.
The ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town left the Australian Test team without both of their opening batsmen. Despite missing the fourth match of the infamous tour to South Africa, openers David Warner and Cameron Bancroft remained Australia’s highest run-scorers in the series.
Desperate to resurrect the top order, Australian selectors turned to one-day maestro Finch, who made his Test debut against Pakistan in October 2018.
The Victorian had already proven himself a natural leader, and was touted as one of the figures who would restore the team’s image.
But the national selectors were so hellbent on filling the void left by Warner, Finch was chosen to open the batting, despite rarely playing the role in first-class cricket.
Inevitably, Finch struggled to adapt to the unfamiliar situation at the top of the order, and after five Tests was dropped with a batting average of 27.80.
In Amazon docu-series The Test, a discussion between Australian head coach Justin Langer and bowling coach David Saker highlighted precisely why his axing was unjust.
“If Finch plays, the only way he can play is opening,” Langer conceded.
“That’s my gut feeling with the team we’ve got, because we have enough guys who can play in the middle order.”
Saker replied: “If you go with Finch at the middle, who goes at the top? Finch can’t bat at the top, not in Australia.”
Langer responded: “Well, he can’t play then, mate. Who else are we going to pick?”
These comments occurred before the Perth Test against India in December 2018, two matches before Finch was dropped. The coaching staff knew he was not equipped to open the batting in Test cricket, but they persisted with the failing experiment regardless.
He put her on the phone to him and told her to keep him talking. She did, for two hours.
“Oh, dear, you bring back an unsavoury episode,” Partington said to her. “That would be the worst episode of my life. You can’t make excuses for weakness … it’s a character flaw … a stupid episode … a moment of weakness.” Alison still bristles when remembering his self-justifications.
Partington continued: “But I didn’t have too many other episodes where … well, I didn’t have any other episodes, actually.”
Yet there had been one other victim, seven years previously, who now came to light. The particulars were familiar: a 12-year-old with stars in her eyes, a sleepover with a phantom fellow invitee who suddenly and mysteriously could not make it, then a grotesque forcing of himself on her.
Two cases made the offending institutional.
To the police, Partington said: “We [he and Alison] shared a lot of time together in terms of … training … unfortunately, one night she was at my place for training and one thing led to another.”
He did not want to “incriminate” Alison, he said, but it was infatuation all round. She put him on a pedestal, he was irresistibly drawn to her, “a young attractive gymnast”. “The mutual thing goes both ways,” he said.
In the transcript, you can just about hear the growl of Judge Douglas Trapnell from the County Court bench at this.
Partington’s warped thinking became Alison’s. “I thought I was consenting,” she said. Her confusion would not clear for decades.
Her case attracted no attention, then nor since. But she came forward in the wake of a recent wave of accounts by gymnasts around the world of physical and emotional abuse in their sport, prompted by the release of a Netflix documentary on disgraced and jailed American gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. It was a dam-buster. In the lull where the Tokyo Olympic Games should have been, their stories rang out.
In Australia, too, the tales are legion. Most fall frustratingly short of the standard necessary to become criminal matters, but are very much within the remit of authorities overseeing a culture which could be described as martial. Gymnastics Australia has asked the Australian Human Rights Commission to conduct an investigation.
At the far end of the scale, but sending shivers up all spines, are long-hidden stories like Alison’s. Partington worked for another 20 or more years as a gym coach, judge and PE teacher after crossing her path.
‘Intimacy meant I was a good person’
It was Box Hill in the early 1980s. Alison loved and was good at gymnastics, and at home was at war with a sister three years her senior who was developing schizophrenia. Partington’s home gym was her refuge and portal. He became a father figure.
“He understood my dream for gymnastics excellence in a way that my own parents didn’t,” she said in her victim impact statement. “I was excited by [his] interest in me, which intensified over the years. Intimacy with him meant I was a good person, worthy of his attention.
“When I found myself, aged 14, alone in his house, I saw it as proof that I was special. I didn’t regard his first assault as rape, downplaying it merely as a sexual encounter, the dues to keep his affection.”
When Partington had approached Alison’s mother about a sleepover, he said his own 14-year-old daughter would be there as well. But she wasn’t. Alison remembered his heavy breathing. “I also recall his heavy weight on me … and feeling pinned down and overwhelmed,” she said. She would have weighed just over 40 kilos. “It was just awful,” she said.
Subsequently, Partington groped her at his gym and made her perform oral sex on him in his car. He picked her up from school, telling her to tell her mother the bus was late. Her mother suspected something was amiss, but Alison would tell her nothing. “I feared the end of my career,” she said.
It caused a split between mother and daughter that Alison said was still healing. “My heart hardened against her,” she said.
Alison wondered why Partington cooled towards her, blaming herself. She remembered a sudden exodus of three young gymnasts from Partington’s club one year and wondered about that, too. She developed an eating disorder, changed schools and gym clubs, but a year later had had enough.
“By the time, I was 15, I was too exhausted and emotionally strung out to continue in the sport I loved,” she said in her statement.
At 17, she hesitantly told her first boyfriend about Partington. “He wanted to kill him,” she said.
Her boyfriend was Tony Smith, now the Speaker in the House of Representatives. At 18, she went to a lawyer, but when he asked for evidence and she said she had none, he said: “Sorry.” She had kept diaries, but later burnt them, hoping to burn the memories, too. She would regret that.
Alison dabbled in journalism, moved to Western Australia, adopted a cowgirl persona, then on a whim jumped on a stranger’s yacht to sail around the world and see it. Back in Australia, she settled in Queensland, opened a catering business, did an arts-law degree, added a Masters in creative writing, married David Quigley and had two sons.
Still, she recognised that in everything she did she was obsessive and sometimes reckless. Therapy has helped her to understand what this was all about.
“Until I began to get professional help, I was unable to find a direct line to my emotions, express them authentically and articulate my innermost needs to others,” she said. “The barriers weren’t just saving me from being hurt by others, they were preventing me from being intimate with my most authentic self.”
When one of Alison’s sons also developed an eating disorder, she took him to a psychiatrist. At her husband’s suggestion, she told him her own story, too. “He’s a paedophile,” the psychiatrist said. “Imagine if that was your 14-year-old son.”
“Oh my God, yes,” Alison thought.
It was 2016. The royal commission was in session. Two cases — one concerning a dance teacher, the other a soccer coach — resonated. Fortunately, the statute of limitations has just been eased. The machinery of justice cranked into action. The other victim was identified and a case established.
Alison thinks back on how coaches would take carloads of prepubescent gymnasts interstate — with few or no chaperones — for championships and wonders how many other victims might be hidden in the folds of history. But two was enough now.
Speaking to Alison on the phone, Partington was sorry to her but for himself, too. To the police, he was vague, saying at first that “we may have been intimate”. He recalled no further transgression with Alison, nor any other victim. But at the committal hearing, he pleaded guilty, which was to Alison a small mercy, sparing her cross-examination.
Judge Trapnell was scathing. “Sexual offending by adults against vulnerable children is a scourge on our society,” he said.
He made note of the vast power imbalance between adult and child, Partington’s position of authority over her career and his disregard for her inexperience and the risks of pregnancy and venereal disease. He said that distance in time from the crime and a blameless life since were not mitigation, and that victims often took longer to rehabilitate than the perpetrator.
“It is clear from the heartfelt expressions of great emotional suffering and grief contained in both victim impact statements that your victims have had their childhoods destroyed, their self-esteem damaged, educational and career opportunities reduced and the capacity to form and maintain serious relationships impaired,” he said.
He did allow for Partington’s age — 76 at the time of sentencing — lack of prior convictions, early guilty plea and remorse. The sentence was six years’s jail, with a minimum of 3½.
Alison says she is satisfied with the outcome. She cares full-time for her son and aims next year to do a PhD with a law theme. In the meantime, she has written a book called The Trophy Room that is now with agents. It’s based loosely on her life experience but is a murder mystery.
She says that as a topic, murder is easier to take.
Greg Baum is chief sports columnist and associate editor with The Age.
“There’s just seven sessions left in the financial period, which means sometimes people decide to crystalise any losses they’ve had this financial year,” Ms Lee said.
“So we could see a bit of selling this week for firms that have not done well.”
Ms Lee said ASX 200 stragglers hurt during the coronavirus slump – including the likes of Southern Cross Media, oOh! Media, G8 Education, Flight Centre, and Webjet – were particularly vulnerable.
The potential for negative corporate updates and re-ratings was also high, she said.
“The scenario is that a lack of bad news – as opposed to good news – is going to be a positive thing for the market.
“There are huge expectations for negative revaluations of property trusts, and bricks and mortar retail, so anything better than that will be seen as a plus for many.”
Wall Street will provide a weak lead for local stocks on Monday after the Dow Jones lost 0.8 per cent and the S&P 500 fell by 0.5 per cent on Friday.
The ASX 200 had earlier limped into the weekend but still managed to rise 1.6 per cent for its seventh weekly rise in eight.
The trickle of earnings reports continues on Monday with IGA supermarket supplier Metcash due to publish its full-year results, potentially offering an insight into the impact of panic buying and hoarding during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Building firm CSR is also due to host its annual general meeting on Wednesday in what may offer a glimpse of how the construction industry is holding up.
On the economics front, Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe Governor Lowe is due to speak on Monday morning at the ANU Crawford Leadership Forum on the global economy and COVID-19.
“There, he may also share insights from the economic experience abroad, and will likely, in our view, call for a tapering of fiscal stimulus that ensures the recovery is not put at risk,” NAB’s markets research team said in a note.
Preliminary merchandise trade data will be published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday, with ANZ expecting the goods balance surplus to drop a touch on the previous month.
Commonwealth Bank will also release its weekly card spend data, while the bureau’s latest business survey on Wednesday will show how firms fared in mid-June following the easing of social distancing restrictions.
CBA expects job vacancy data on Thursday to decline, given the recent deterioration in the labour market, though it said the timing of the survey – the third Friday in May – could complicate the result.
NAB has flagged it will also update its consumer spending and business cashflow report this week.
Offshore, and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand meets on Wednesday. It is expected to leave its policy settings unchanged.
In the US, durable goods orders for May will show how business spending is faring amid the ongoing rise in unemployment.
The country’s personal income and spending report for May is tipped to reveal some recovery in spending amid a further slowing in core inflation.