Tehran: Iran`s Opposition leaders are barred from leaving the country, a prominent conservative lawmaker said on Saturday, hiking up the pressure on the reform movement.
The comments by Mousa Qorbani, a member of the Judicial Committee in parliament, were the first official word of a travel ban on the top opposition figures, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi - who both ran in the disputed 2009 presidential elections - as well as former reformist president Mohammad Khatami.
Qorbani also suggested the pressure by hard-liners to put the top leaders on trial, a step the government has so far stopped short of taking, though many mid-and low-level figures in the opposition movement have been tried and sentenced to long prison terms in the fierce crackdown that crushed protests following the 2009 vote.
Qorbani said authorities had "recognised" that Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami are "mohareb" - a term meaning that they are "fighting God."
"Therefore, they are barred from leaving," Qorbani was quoted by the state TV-run Youth Journalists Club as saying today.
Many other opposition figures who have been convicted were tried on charges of being "mohareb." The elite Revolutionary Guard, Iran`s most powerful military force, has pushed for the trial of the three opposition leaders. Jailing Mousavi, the most senior leader, or either of the other two could stoke tensions with the opposition.
Mousavi and Karroubi said in a statement Wednesday that they are already leaving in a "big prison" and didn`t care if they were put behind bars in a "small prison" for defending the trampled rights of the Iranian nation.
Though no travel ban had been officially announced, Khatami was forbidden to travel to Japan in April to attend a conference on dialogue between cultures.
The opposition claims that Mousavi was the rightful winner of the 2009 election and that hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner through massive vote fraud.
Hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets in the aftermath of the election in support of Mousavi but their peaceful protest was crushed by the Guard-led forces.
The opposition says more than 80 demonstrators were killed in the turmoil. The government, which puts the number of confirmed deaths at 30, accuses opposition leaders of being "stooges of the West" and of seeking to topple the ruling system through street protests.