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Florida suspends a player accused of sexual assault

The University of Florida announced Monday that quarterback Treon Harris, a true freshman who came off the bench to lead the Gators to a victory Saturday, had been suspended “from all team activities” after a female student accused him of sexually assaulting her early Sunday morning in a residence hall.

According to a university crime log, there was a claim of a sexual battery Sunday morning between 2:30 and 3:25, which was reported to the university police shortly after midnight Monday morning.

The university announced that its police department was investigating the matter and that it had brought in the Gainesville police as well. In a separate statement, the Gainesville department said that only its forensic crime unit was involved in the investigation, and only to assist in the collection of evidence.

“We have no tolerance for sexual assault on our campus,” Bernie Machen, the university president, said.

Harris has not been arrested, his lawyer, Huntley Johnson, said.

“We are cooperating with the investigation, and I’m hopeful that there will not be an arrest in this case,” Johnson said by phone Monday.

Johnson added that he thought the suspension from team activities was fair.

“The university has their rules, and based on what they know at this point, it’s appropriate,” he said. “In the long run, I hope it’s not appropriate.”

Harris, who went to high school in Miami, took over for the starter, Jeff Driskel, in Saturday’s game and led the Gators to a 10-9 comeback victory at Tennessee.

With Florida trailing by 9-0 late in the third quarter, coach Will Muschamp subbed Harris for Driskel, who had completed 11 of 23 passes for only 59 yards and had thrown three interceptions. Harris, in the first meaningful snaps of his college career and aided by favorable field position after a Tennessee fumble, led the Gators to a touchdown, a field goal and a win.

After the game, Muschamp said he was “very proud of Treon and the job he did.” Muschamp’s scheduled teleconference for Monday morning was not held.

The accusation against Harris comes amid a nationwide debate over the handling of reports of sexual assault on college campuses, including some involving prominent athletes.

Last month, President Barack Obama announced the start of the “It’s on Us” initiative to raise awareness of sexual assaults on campuses. “An estimated 1 in 5 women has been sexually assaulted during her college years,” Obama said.

In late 2012, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, last season’s Heisman winner, was accused of rape, but the claim did not become public for several months, and it was later discovered that the police and the university had conducted a flawed investigation. Prosecutors declined to file charges, and Winston was not suspended.

According to a report released in July by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., athletic departments handled sexual assault accusations against athletes at more than 1 in 5 campuses nationwide.

“I think suspending him from athletic activities makes a statement to the larger community that sexual assault is not tolerated and there will be serious consequences,” said Jessie Lazarchik, the community education project coordinator at the Alachua County Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center, near Florida’s campus in Gainesville.

—Mark Tracy, The New York Times

Two in Tehran are missing after explosion near military complex

TEHRAN, Iran — A mysterious explosion at or near an important military complex rocked the Iranian capital on Sunday, lighting up the skies over the city.

Iranian official sources denied the explosion had taken place at the complex, the expansive Parchin military site in the east of the city, where international monitors suspect Iran once tested triggers for potential nuclear weapons.

But the enormous orange flash that illuminated Tehran around 11:15 p.m. local time clearly came from that direction, several witnesses said.

Officials at Iran’s Defense Industries Organization, though also denying that the explosion took place at Parchin, confirmed that two people were missing after “an ordinary fire” caused by “chemical reactions of flammable material” at an unspecified production unit, according to the semiofficial Iranian Student News Agency.

There was no word on the location of the fire.

Witnesses in the east of Tehran said that windows had been shattered in the vicinity of the military complex, and that all trees in a 100-yard radius of two villages, Changi and Hammamak, were burned.

The villages are on the outskirts of the military site.

Inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency were given access to Parchin in 2005, but they have since been refused follow-up inspections.

The United Nations agency is still seeking access to the site, where they suspect Iran of having conducted high-explosive experiments related to nuclear weapon research. Iran has denied this, and says the site is part of its regular military program and is therefore off-limits to inspections.

Built during the reign of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the site — partly buried in the Barjamali hills — was traditionally used as a munitions storage facility but is now also used for the production of missile engines and drones.

From roughly 2010 until 2012, Iran was plagued by a series of mysterious explosions and incidents involving critical gas pipeline infrastructure and military sites.

In 2011, a huge explosion west of Tehran killed 17 people, including the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s missile program.

While officials say most of the disasters have been accidents, representatives of President Hassan Rouhani’s government have in the past accused Western powers and Israel of a campaign to sabotage Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

Thomas Erdbrink, The New York Times