Iran' s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has described questioning the country's disputed June 12 presidential vote as the "biggest crime."
Khamenei's comments, reported in Iranian media, appear to be his strongest warning yet to opposition leaders such as Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi, who have on a number of occasions said that the vote was massively rigged in favor of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
The comments could also be intended to create fear within the opposition movement, which is preparing to return to the streets for a mass protest on November 4.
"On the day after election day, certain people described this great election as 'a lie without proof': is that a minor offense?" Khamenei asked on October 28, during a meeting with university students and instructors in Tehran.
Reports say Khamenei added that questioning the June vote is the "biggest crime."
Green Light For Arrest?
France-based journalist Hossein Bastani, who covers Iran, tells RFE/RL that Khamenei's comments could be interpreted as a green light for the arrest and prosecution of Musavi and Karrubi.
"[Khamenei] used the word 'crime'; due to his legal and illegal powers he enjoys in Iran, some might consider the comments as a call to deal with the crime," said Bastani.
Shortly after Khamenei spoke, conservative lawmaker Hamid Reza Rasayi described the comments as "confirmation" that he concurs with a complaint filed against Musavi by 100 parliamentarians.
Reports last week said that the lawmakers called for the prosecution of the former prime minister, who finished second to Ahmadinejad in the election.
Rasayi called on the judiciary to bring Musavi to justice as soon as possible.
State prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeyi on October 29 confirmed that he said that his office is reviewing the lawmakers' complaint. He said the parliamentarians accuse Musavi of disrupting public order, and of disseminating propaganda against the establishment.
Karrubi, who like Musavi was a candidate in the June vote, has also come under official scrutiny. Earlier this month, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said that the Special Court for Clergy is investigating Karrubi, who has accused security forces of rape and other abuses against those who participated in the mass protests that followed the election.
A number of conservative officials have called for the arrests and prosecution of both Musavi and Karrubi, whom they accused of masterminding a "velvet coup" and harming the Islamic establishment.
President Ahmadinejad said in late August that opposition leaders should be arrested over the unrest that followed his reelection.
Secretary-general of the conservative Islamic Coalition party, Habibollah Asgaroladi, has been quoted as saying that some "extremists" have called for the execution of Musavi and Karrubi.
He has accused Musavi and Karrubi -- both seen as key figures of the 1979 revolution -- of leaving the inner circle of the revolution. But Asgaroladi has also said the two should be spoken to with "sincerity."
Journalist Bastani suggests that the Iranian establishment has not yet made a final decision on whether to arrest Musavi and Karrubi, because of the "heavy price" the regime could stand to pay for targeting the popular political figures.
"I believe the decision hasn't been made yet, but Khamenei's comment is a warning that says: 'we' re ready to go this far,'" Bastani said.
Ali Keshtgar, an Iran analyst based in Paris, tells RFE/RL's Radio Farda that Khamenei's comments reflect the establishment's fear of more protests by the opposition.
He says Tehran is trying to prevent the opposition protest set for November 4, the 30th anniversary of the occupation of the U.S. embassy in Iran.
Opposition members have vowed to use the state demonstrations to protest against the Ahmadinejad's reelection.
"The efforts of Khamenei and his supporters to bring the opposition leaders over to their side -- have failed,” said Kehstgar. He added that Khamenei has made the comments to warn people.
Both Musavi and Karrubi have indicated that they will not back down in the face of threats and pressure.
Karrubi said in a video message issued on October 26 that he stands firm without any fear.
"Those who betray the Islamic Republic and have deviated from it, those who are making its Islam meaningless and empty, and those who are destroying its republicanism and are turning it into just a name -- they should repent," said the reformist cleric.
Khamenei revealed in his October 28 comments that shortly after the election results were announced, he sent a message to the "directing elements" of the unfolding unrest.
Presidential candidates Musavi and Karrubi protested against the election result -- apparently despite the warning from Khamenei, who has the last say in all state matters.
Bastani believes the supreme leader's latest warning will also not deter the two opposition leaders.
"Khamenei lost his status in the first week after the election. Now, moving against Khamenei's warning is not considered a big red line anymore. Many have crossed this red line," Bastani said.
In another strong warning to the opposition, the commander of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Mohammad Ali Jafari, has described Iran's establishment as "divine," adding that safeguarding it is even more important than praying.
Jafari added that no one should believe that the "enemy's threat" against Iran has been removed.