di Francesco Musolino
Rome, October 23 - Physicist Luciano Maiani on Tuesday resigned as president of Italy's principal natural-disaster risk-assessment body in the wake of the conviction of seven top-level scientists and public officials for manslaughter in connection with the April 2009 earthquake that shook the Abruzzo town of L'Aquila and surrounding areas, leaving 309 people dead. Maiani told ANSA that he had decided to resign due to the "impossibility for the Commission of being able to work with serenity and provide the State with a high level of scientific consultancy in such complex conditions". The Commission's vicepresidente Mauro Rosi and its president emeritus Giuseppe Zamberletti also stepped down. On Monday a L'Aquila court sentenced seven scientists, all members of the Commission on Major Risks at the time of the earthquake, to six years in jail and barred them from public office for allegedly providing "superficial and ineffective" assessment of seismic risk and of disclosing "inaccurate, incomplete and contradictory" information regarding earthquake danger. One of the defendants was Mauro Dolce, director of the civil protection department's seismic and volcanic risks office, who on Tuesday handed in his resignation. The national and international scientific community has slammed the court verdict, saying it sets a dangerous precedent as major earthquakes cannot be accurately predicted. Meanwhile on Tuesday L'Aquila journalist Giustino Parisse who lost his two sons and father in the earthquake wrote in the Abruzzo paper Il Centro that he does not "feel able to take my anger out on those men". "I have shaken hands with some of them over the last few months, including during the trial, and I did not find them to be stained with blood. I saw fragile men who were perhaps aware that they had made a mistake and for that reason were caught up in the turmoil of a tragedy that also swept them away", he wrote. The seven defendants are to appeal against the sentence in a case that could be heard towards the end of next year. It could take years if it goes on to to the third level of appeal, at the Court of Cassation.