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An Iranian pro-reform website reported on April 15 that former President Mohammad Khatami was barred from leaving the country ahead of a trip he planned to make to Japan for a nuclear disarmament conference.

A source close to Khatami had confirmed the news.

Khatami's lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabayi told the ILNA news agency today that there is no judicial order banning Khatami from traveling outside Iran, but that Khatami cancelled his trip on April 15 following "the recommendation of some organs."

The move seems to be part of the Iranian establishment's campaign of pressuring opposition leaders and their supporters. Behind the government's "recommendation" that Khatami not travel abroad is likely an attempt to prevent the reformist and charismatic ex-president from getting international media attention.

That effort has evidently backfired, as the pressure on Khatami is itself making headlines.

Khatami backed former Prime Minister and opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi in last year's disputed presidential election.

In the aftermath of the vote, Khatami has on a number of occasions criticized the post-election crackdown, including the mass arrests and what he has called "show trials." He has also called on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to be "the leader of all Iranians." Khatami has also said that “those who shot people in the streets” should be put on trial and that reformists should stand firm on the political scene.

In comments published today, the former Iranian president criticized governmental pressure on refomist parties and on reformist figures who have been temporarily released from prison.

Khatami has not publicly commented on the reason why he didn't travel to Japan.

An Iranian reformist lawmaker, Nasrollah Torabi, has said that the issue is on the agenda of the minority faction of the Iranian parliament.

Ali Shakuri-Rad, a senior member of the reformist Mosharekat party, has said that Iranian leaders cannot tolerate "Khatami's international standing," particularly at a time when they’re facing increased international pressure and criticism.

“Domestically, they’re trying to send a message to Khatami and trying to influence his stances,” said Shakuri-Rad.

Paris-based reformist journalist Seraj Mirdamadi told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that he believes the establishment has reached the conclusion that it has to increase censorship, pressure, and its overall crackdown on the Green Movement and its key figures.

“Khatami, while traveling outside the country, can be the voice of the protest segment of Iranian society, which will be covered by international media,” said Mirdamadi.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has said the Iranian government's refusal to allow Khatami to attend the Japan conference is “a violation of his freedom of movement and part of a broad but futile effort to contain critical voices and prevent them from having contact with the international community.”

The travel ban on Khatami is just the latest case of pressure on the former Iranian president who has repeatedly come under fire by hardliners for his stances.

On the anniversary of the 1979 revolution, Khatami was reportedly attacked by hard-liners who prevented him from participating in street demonstrations.

Last month, the tomb of his father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khatami, was desecrated in Ardekan.

Last December, hard-liners disrupted a speech by Khatami at a mosque in Tehran.

And Iran's hard-line Fars news agency reported last month that Khatami had been barred from leaving Iran, a report denied by his lawyer.

In recent years a number of political and human rights activists have been prevented from leaving Iran.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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