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Italian scientists protest against quake sentence

(Xinhua)

08:49, October 24, 2012

ROME, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- The Italian scientific community on Tuesday contested a court verdict over the deadly 2009 quake in the central city of L'Aquila, saying it set a damaging precedent as "there is no way, at present, to predict earthquakes".

Physicist Luciano Maiani resigned as president of national natural-disaster risk-assessment commission in protest against the verdict that handed six years jail sentence to seven government-appointed experts accused of manslaughter for giving a reassuring statement before the powerful shake.

Maiani said he had decided to step down along with some other officials of the commission due to the "impossibility for us of being able to work with serenity and provide the state with a high level of scientific consultancy".

The president of National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INVG) Stefano Gresta called himself "shocked" by Monday's ruling which "can significantly affect the relationship between scientists and decision-makers".

He said the decision could jeopardize the rights and duty of scientists to participate in the public dialogue by communicating their research results outside the scientific premises, for fear of legal retribution.

"In the entire world, it is impossible to predict earhquakes in a definitive way. Scientists are able to determine the so-called precursor phenomena only after a quake occurred," Gresta told Xinhua.

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