TEHRAN —President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran on Sunday likened the protests disputing his election victory, the most intense disturbances in Tehran in a decade, as well as the possible arrests of his opponents to the passions of soccer.
Dozens of reformist politicians were said to have been arrested at their homes overnight, according to news reports on Sunday and a witness who worked with the politicians. There were also reports of politicians and clerics being placed under house arrest.
In a wide-ranging news conference with domestic and foreign correspondents, Mr. Ahmadinejad said that his re-election was “real and free” and accused foreign media of launching a “psychological war” against Iran.
When asked about the detention of opposition leaders, including his top challener, Mir Hussein Moussavi, Mr. Ahmadinejad did not answer directly but said those committing crimes deserved to be arrested.
“There will rule of law in this country and all the people are equal before the law,” he said. In a soccer match, he continued, “People may become excited and there may be confrontation between people and the police force. People who violate traffic violations will be fined by the police no matter who he is.”
Reuters quoted a judiciary spokesman on Sunday as saying that the reformists had not been arrested but had been summoned, “warned not to increase tension” and released.
Regarding the protests and alleged voting irregularities, the president told the journalists at the news conference: “Some believed they would win, and then they got angry. It has no legal credibility. It is like the passions after a football match. It is not important from my point of view.”