Soothsayer Busted for Predicting President's Demise
Probably wasn't a good idea to say Maithripala Sirisena was going to die
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 1, 2017 8:00 AM CST
Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena addresses the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters on Sept. 21, 2016.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

(Newser) – An astrologer who made several predictions that Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena would die has been arrested and released on bail, police said Wednesday, per the AP. Most Sri Lankans follow astrologers' advice, and the suspect, Vijitha Rohana Wijemuni, is a former navy sailor convicted of attempting to assassinate India's then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1987. The Police Media Division says Wijemuni was arrested Tuesday on charges of making false predictions and comments that could mislead the public. A Colombo court released him on bail Wednesday. Wijemuni posted several videos on Facebook predicting Sirisena would die of illness or accident before Jan. 27. His predictions raised concerns, and in December, Media Ministry Secretary Nimal Bopage asked police to investigate.

In the letter sent to the police chief, Bopage said he suspected a possible coup and assassination attempt were behind Wijemuni's sustained campaign on the internet over the last few months. Wijemuni is the only person who has been investigated, though the government didn't say if he was thought to have acted alone. He served two and a half years in prison for attacking Gandhi with his rifle as the Indian premier inspected a naval guard of honor in Colombo. After being released from jail, Wijemuni turned to politics and contested parliamentary elections in 2000 before becoming an astrologer. Most Sri Lankans follow astrology to identify auspicious times for occasions such as marriage, building houses, and signing important documents.

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