Death threats have forced Ken Ring into hiding and fear of prosecution for inciting riot has struck him dumb on the subject of earthquake prediction.
The astrological weather forecaster, who is receiving medical help for stress, spoke to the Times-Age from a secret location this week.
He said he now fears for his life and freedom after a media frenzy erupted in the wake of his prediction that a major earthquake was going to strike Christchurch on March 20.
ACC Minister Nick Smith, a geotechnical engineer, staged a non-event lunch in the Garden City on that day in response, dining without incident along with members of the Skeptics Society and other supporters of evidence-based science.
Some people had fled the city after becoming aware of the warning from Mr Ring and Sir Peter Gluckman, scientific adviser to Prime Minister John Key, had rejected the claims in a public call for calm.
"They said it was like calling out fire in a crowded theatre and that's against the law - it's called the riot act, and inciting riot," Mr Ring said.
"My defence would be that the theatre is already on fire. All I'm doing is warning people of when and where the hottest spots will be.
"I've been virtually told by Dr Nick Smith and Sir Peter Gluckman that I'm not qualified to put statements out about earthquakes. They will have me legally if I do that.
"Until they reverse that, I'm completely bound to silence. I don't want to go to jail."
Mr Ring said his appearance on TV3's Campbell Live news show at about the same time had inflamed the furore and sparked multiple death threats on his life that "included the word kill and named my address".
He had reported four of the threats to police - once being told by an officer "it comes with the territory" - and has indefinitely quit his Auckland home amid fears for himself and his family, he said.
"Campbell relentlessly held me up to be a charlatan, a fraud, and everything he could think of," Mr Ring said.
"It's like I'm being burned at the stake like a witch. I thought those days were over."
Mr Ring said he has shunned all interview requests since filming the TV3 show in late February and has since sought medical help for stress related to the consequent death threats and heightened media attention.
He has had to cancel live engagements in Christchurch, he said, and the controversy had taken a financial toll on his work as a weather forecaster.
"And I've not made a penny from earthquake predictions - it's not my business. I do it to help people," he said.
He will continue making astrological weather forecasts for New Zealand, he said, but will for now hold his tongue about earthquakes in the Shaky Isles.
"There are plenty of other places in the world that would welcome earthquake warnings, so I'll concentrate on that," he said.
"For us though, it'll die down. The [earthquake] timeline has always been until the end of April.
"Scientists are now saying it'll be February 2013 before it stops but they're just making it up.
"After this month the moon moves away, the Jupiter Saturn effect moves away that's been causing solar activity, and it'll be the end of the main part of the earthquake sequence. Things will die down then."
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