"I would like to ask a question," he began. "Which part of the behavior of the American government's correspond with the culture and teachings of Jesus Christ?... If Christ was here today, would he not punish the American statesmen for the war in Afghanistan and Iraq? Would he not resist them? He would definitely resist them."
He was defiant of the international threat of tougher sanctions on Iran if it didn't agree to agree to proposals to limit its ability to make nuclear bombs.
"We don't welcome confrontation, but we don't surrender to bullying either. If you want to talk with us under fair conditions, we welcome it. If you are saying you are going to impose sanctions, then go and do it," Ahmadinejad said.
The Iranian president rejected any suggestion by Amnesty International and opponents of the government that the regime doesn't tolerate criticism or street protests. The country has been split over charges that the presidential election earlier this year was rigged and a subsequent brutal crackdown on street protests.
"In Iran we have got freedom, more than what there is in America," Ahmadinejad claimed.
During the interview, the Iranian president was reminded about his promise to help release Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd. "Are you still going to do your best to set them free?" Sawyer asked.
"Yes," Ahmadinejad curtly replied. "But I have got a question to you. How do you know they have accidentally crossed into Iran? How do you know they were looking for waterfalls and forests?"
When Sawyer asked if there was evidence that the trio were anything but adventurous tourists, Ahmadinejad shot back, "Who has told you this? Are you a judge?"
Sawyer tried to reply, but Ahmadinejad cut her off. "Just let me finish. Have the intelligence agents told you this?"
Pressed on whether the Americans will go on trial, the Iranian president said, "I am not the judge to judge about it."
Despite Ahmadinejad's earlier statement that he would help in obtaining their release, Iran's foreign minister stated last week that Shourd, Bauer and Fattal will be put on trial, charged with espionage.
The Americans were arrested July 31 when they were found wandering on the Iranian side of the border after trekking through the mountainous region from a hotel in northern Iraq. They claimed that they were sightseers and didn't mean to cross the badly defined border in the area.
Bauer is a freelance journalist based in the Middle East and originally from Minnesota; Shourd is also based in the Middle East as a writer and teacher and is from California; and Fattal is an environmental worker from Oregon.
Shourd's mother, Nora Shourd, appealed last week to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to release her daughter and her two friends as a gesture in the days before Christmas.
Sawyer raised the issue of the hikers' families being in "enormous anguish" since they have been unable to visit them or speak to them. "Will you help arrange that?" Sawyer asked.
"We aren't happy about it either. We are unhappy about all prisoners. In America, there are 3.5 million prisoners. We are unhappy about all of them," Ahmadinejad said. Moments later he added, "I think they have corresponded......We should ask the judge. They might be able to do it."