LONDON (Reuters) - President Hassan Rouhani, giving his first public reaction to four days of anti-government protests, said on Sunday Iranians had the right to protest and criticize the authorities but their actions should not lead to violence or damage public property.
“People are absolutely free to criticize the government and protest but their protests should be in such a way as to improve the situation in the country and their life,” Rouhani was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as telling the cabinet.
“Criticism is different from violence and damaging public properties.”
Anti-government protesters demonstrated on Sunday in defiance of a warning by the authorities of a tough crackdown, extending for a fourth day one of the most audacious challenges to the clerical leadership since pro-reform unrest in 2009.
Tens of thousands of people have protested across the country since Thursday against the Islamic Republic’s unelected clerical elite and Iranian foreign policy in the region. They have also chanted slogans in support of political prisoners.
“Resolving the problems is not easy and would take time. The government and people should help each other to resolve the issues,” Rouhani said, according to IRNA.
Rouhani also rebuffed U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments in support of the protests.
“This man in America who is sympathizing today with our people has forgotten that he called the Iranian nation terrorists a few months ago. This man who is against the Iranian nation to his core has no right to sympathize with Iranians,” Rouhani said.
Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, Editing by William Maclean