TEHRAN - Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday called for the prosecution and punishment of the leaders of unrest that erupted after his disputed June re-election.
The poll and its aftermath have plunged Iran into its biggest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Dozens of senior moderates are being tried on charges of inciting unrest to overthrow the clerical establishment.
Rights groups say hundreds of people, including senior pro-reform politicians, journalists and activists, have been detained since the election. Many still remain in jail.
Leading hardliners and commanders of the elite Revolutionary Guards have also called for the arrest defeated presidential candidates Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi as well as former President Mohammad Khatami for leading the unrest.
The leaders and the main elements behind the unrest should be dealt with most firmly, Ahmadinejad told Friday prayers at Tehran University.
The president said those caught up in the unrest should be freed, but the leaders should face justice.
These deceived figures should enjoy Islamic clemency. But don't give immunity and protection to the main elements, he said in a speech broadcast live on state radio.
Those who organized protests and carried out Iran's enemies' demands should be confronted decisively.
Those on trial include a former vice president and several former ministers as well as a number of wealthy businessmen.
In remarks to calm the political turmoil, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday claims that opposition leaders had links to Western powers have not been proven despite hardliners' allegations of widespread foreign meddling.
But Khamenei added that the post-election unrest were calculated by Iran's enemies whether or not its leaders know, criticizing opposition leaders for highlighting claims of abuses of detained protesters.
Karoubi and Mousavi, who say the vote was rigged to secure Ahmadinejad's vote win, have demanded investigations into allegations of torture and rape against security agents.
A member of a parliamentary investigative committee said on Thursday that some reports of rape had been confirmed.
Leading moderates say at least 69 people were killed since the vote, contradicting the official figure of 26 deaths.
Ahmadinejad implicitly confirmed the abuse allegations, calling for punishment of those responsible for abuses of some post-election detainees.
In some detention centers inappropriate measures have taken place for which the enemy was again responsible, he said. I want those responsible ... to be punished.
Iran's senior dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri described on Wednesday the clerical establishment as a dictatorship, saying that the authorities handling of the vote-unrest could lead to the fall of the regime, his website reported.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Jon Hemming)