EU concerned about Iran youth death verdict

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BRUSSELS, Oct 16 (Reuters) The European Union voiced ''deep concern'' today over what it said was the possible imminent execution of an Iranian man convicted of murdering a fellow school pupil when he was 16 years old.

Ali Mahin Torabi, who has been in prison since 2002, was sentenced to death after he killed another pupil in a school fight. Police said he knifed his victim intentionally.

His mother told Reuters in Tehran the family had requested a review of the case but that she feared ''we are running out of time''.

Iran is a signatory of UN conventions banning the execution of young offenders -- people convicted of crimes committed when they were under 18.

But Amnesty International said in June the Islamic Republic had executed 24 child offenders since 1990, more than any other country in the world. It also said it was aware of 71 such offenders currently under sentence of death.

Under Iranian law, judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi must sign the verdict before the execution of Torabi can be carried out.

''The EU is deeply concerned by the news of the imminent confirmation (by Hashemi-Shahroudi) ... of the execution sentence on Mr Ali Mahin Torabi,'' EU president Portugal said in a statement on behalf of the 27-nation grouping.

It said the Convention on the Rights of the Child banned the execution of minors or people who had been convicted of crimes committed while they were minors.

In Tehran, Torabi's mother confirmed the case would be sent to Hashemi-Shahroudi's office by the end of this week.

''They (judiciary officials) have told us that they will send the case to his office by the end of the week.

(Hashemi-Shahroudi) hasn't signed the verdict yet,'' she said by telephone, without giving her name.

She said her son had never made a ''definite confession'' and that the family had requested a review of the case.

''We still don't know if they will grant our request. Maybe if we had more time, we could do something but I am afraid we are running out of time,'' she said.

Amnesty International, which says Iran has one of the highest rates of executions in the world, said last month it had recorded 210 executions so far this year, compared with 177 in 2006.

REUTERS RSA RN2241

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