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The manslaughter trial of six scientists and one government official continued yesterday in Italy over their reassurances to the public prior to a deadly earthquake in 2009.
Guido Bertolaso, former head of the Department of Civil Protection and De Bernardinis’s direct superior, had not been indicted and was originally expected to appear as a witness. But a few weeks ago a wiretap revealed that he had apparently set up the meeting to convey a reassuring message, regardless of the scientists’ opinion. He also seemed to be the source of the “discharge of energy” statement. He thus found himself under investigation and, at the beginning of the hearing, he was officially notified that he too may soon be formally indicted for manslaughter.
Bertolaso was asked by the prosecutor to explain that telephone conversation. He defended himself by saying that by defining the meeting as a “media move”, he was not trying to downplay risks but rather to put some order into the contradictory information that was reaching the citizens in those days. In particular, he referred to Giampaolo Giuliani — a laboratory technician and amateur seismologist who was alarming the population with claims that a major shock was coming — and to a newspaper article that had misquoted some Civil Protection experts and stated that the shocks would soon be over. The meeting, he said, was meant to make clear that both were wrong and that no deterministic prediction could be made. [emphasis mine]
This increasingly appears to be another case of science being corrupted by politics.