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Italy officials resign after earthquake convictions

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 23 Oct 2012 16:36 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Critics fear verdicts will stifle opinions

* Quake killed 308 people

ROME, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Senior members of an Italian government disaster assessment body resigned on Tuesday, a day after seven scientists and officials were convicted of manslaughter for not giving adequate warning of the deadly earthquake in the city of L'Aquila in 2009.

The head of the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks, Luciano Maiani, former president Giuseppe Zamberletti and vice president Mauro Rosi said the convictions had made it impossible to continue their work.

In a statement, they said the situation created by the court's verdict was "incompatible with the smooth and efficient fulfilment of the commission's duties".

On Monday, the seven members of the Commission in 2009 were sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter after they gave what prosecutors said were "incomplete, imprecise and contradictory" statements about the risk of a major earthquake.

The verdict drew warnings from both Italian and international commentators that scientists would be unwilling to give their opinions on potentially sensitive issues due to the potential threat of legal action.

"The most worrying this is that from now on, there will not be a single expert willing to join the commission because they know they could face very heavy criminal convictions for not having been able to predict a disastrous quake," the Corriere della Sera daily said in a front page editorial.

The magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the medieval city of L'Aquila in the early hours of the morning of April 6, 2009, destroying tens of thousands of buildings, injuring more than 1,000 people and killing 308. (Reporting By James Mackenzie; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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