TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's opposition leaders are barred from leaving the country, a prominent conservative lawmaker said Saturday, hiking up the pressure on the reform movement.
The comments by Mousa Qorbani, a member of the parliament's Judicial Committee, were the first official word of a travel ban on the top opposition figures, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi - who both ran in the disputed 2009 presidential elections - as well as former reformist president Mohammad Khatami.
Qorbani's remarks also indicated 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 after the 2009 vote.
Qorbani said authorities had "recognized" that Mousavi, Karroubi, and Khatami are mohareb - a term meaning they are "fighting God."
"Therefore, they are barred from leaving," he was quoted by the state-TV-run Youth Journalists Club as saying.
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 three opposition leaders to be tried. Jailing Mousavi, the most senior leader, or either of the two others could stoke tensions with the opposition.
Mousavi and Karroubi said Wednesday that they were already living in a "big prison" and did not 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 maintains 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 after the election in support of Mousavi, but Revolutionary Guard-led forces crushed their peaceful protests.
The government accuses opposition leaders of being "stooges of the West."