3. The L’Aquila meeting of 31 March 2009 (M. Stucchi and G. Cavallo)

What was the reason for calling an expert meeting in L’Aquila on the 31 March 2009?

 In March 2009 the situation in L’Aquila had become quite difficult, because of many factors:

  • the continuing earthquake sequence, culminating in an event of M=4.0 on 30 March;
  • the spread of ad hoc rumors forecasting major events;
  • the forecasts of a amateur technician, G. Giuliani, predicting varied earthquakes including a major earthquake on 29-30 March in Sulmona, 60 km away from L’Aquila, and
  • a press release by the “Assessore” (Political responsible) to Civil Protection of the Regional Government (Regione Abruzzo), D. Stati, which, on May 30, officially stated that no major earthquake was impending.

After reading this press release, the Head of DPC, Bertolaso, called Stati saying that such statements “are never to be said, even under torture”. In order to “repair” the situation Bertolaso said that he would send the highest experts of seismic risk to L’Aquila the next day, to make the situation clear “through a mediatic event”. The telephone call was recorded because Bertolaso was under investigation for other reasons – without knowing it – and was later made available to public – Italian style – during the L’Aquila trial. Experts declared at the trial that they did not know about this call.

 

What kind of meeting was held in L’Aquila on the 31 March 2009 and were the seven defendants all members of the CGR?

The meeting was called by the Head of the Civil Protection Department, G. Bertolaso, with five faxes respectively addressed to

  1. Zamberletti (President of the CGR, 21 members; for personal reasons he could not attend the meeting)
  2. Barberi (Deputy President of CGR)
  3. Boschi (President of INGV)
  4. Calvi and C. Eva (experts of CGR, seismic risk section).

The text reads:

Voglia Codesta Presidenza e codesti esperti del settore Rischio sismico partecipare alla riunione convocata per il giorno 31 Marzo 2009 all’Aquila alle ore 18,30 presso la sede che verrà comunicata successivamente per un’attenta disamina degli aspetti scientifici e di protezione civile relativi alla sequenza sismica degli ultimi quattro mesi, verificatasi nei territori della Provincia de L’Aquila e culminata nella scossa di Magnitudo 4.0 del 30 marzo 2009 alle ore 15,38 locali.

Il Capo Dipartimento
Guido Bertolaso

 

Will you please, President and experts of the seismic risk sector, to kindly take part in a meeting called on 31 March 3009 at L’Aquila at 18.30 (venue to be specified later), for a careful analysis of the scientific and civil protection aspects of the seismic sequence of the last four months, that is taking place in the territories of the L’Aquila province and culminated in the M4.0 earhquake of 30 March 2009 at 15.38, local time.

The Head of the Department
Guido Bertolaso

As mentioned above, according to the law the DPC Head had no power to call a meeting of the CGR. This power belonged exclusively to the CGR President or Deputy President, while the DPC Head could only summon the experts.
According to the minutes, the meeting was attended at least by nineteen persons (at least, because nineteen are reported in the minutes, but it is known from the trial proceedings that other persons came in without registering; one of them participated in the trial as eyewitness). Four of the participants, later indicted (Barberi, Boschi, Calvi, Eva), were members of the CGR; the other three defendants (Selvaggi, director of INGV monitoring centre, invited by Boschi; Dolce, head of the seismic risk bureau of DPC and De Bernardinis, deputy head of DPC, who were sent by the Head of DPC as his representatives) were not CGR members, did not receive a fax, and were not included among the addressees.

So, we can conclude that at L’Aquila, on 31 March 2009, there was a meeting of four CGR experts (as foreseen by the law, Art.3, Paragraph 10), but not of the CGR, and that only four of the seven defendants were members of the CGR. By no means the indicted were “seven functionaries of the Italian National Department of Civil Protection (DPC)” as stated by Alexander (2014); only two of them, Dolce and De Bernardinis, were.
Equally easy to counter is the statement that the meeting was to all effects a CGR meeting. Besides the quorum issue (10 members, see below), the very fact that only five faxes were sent means that the Commission, consisting of 21 members, was not summoned.

 Is that important?

Yes. The Defense lawyers were quick to raise objections, thus forcing the Judge to analyse the matter in depth, and devote the whole chapter 5.3 of the Motivation of the sentence to an attempt to answer to the question: “was it really a meeting of the CGR?”. The Judge, as well as the Prosecutor before him, was aware of the weakness of his point. To support his theory, and to get to the quorum of ten, the Judge found the solution of “nominating” six additional CGR members picked from the participants in the meeting, unbeknownst to them at that time: besides Selvaggi, Dolce and De Bernardinis, who were subsequently indicted, the “Assessore” (Political responsible) to Civil Protection of the Regional Government (Regione Abruzzo) Stati, the Major of L’Aquila, Cialente and Leone, head of office of the Civil Protection of the Regional Government (Regione Abruzzo) were also appointed as “CGR members”..
The point is important because part of the allegation proceeds from the (interpretation of) the duties of the CGR according to the Law:

“venendo così meno ai doveri di valutazione del rischio connessi alla loro qualità e alla loro funzione e tesi alla previsione e prevenzione e ai doveri di informazione chiara, corretta e completa”

 “failing in such a way to respect the duties of risk assessment connected to their quality (!) and function, addressed to forecast and prevention and to the duties of clear, correct and complete information”

But it was not a CGR meeting and the CGR had no such duties.
The penalty was imposed on all defendants, irrespectively of the part they played at the meeting, because of the same assumption, that all defendants were members of the CGR. It was not imposed, nevertheless, to Stati, Cialente and Leone, although they had been appointed as members of the CGR, too.

Not for nothing the prosecutor says, during the trial, that if the 31.03.2009 meeting was not a CGR meeting then “we should close here the discussion and go home, because here we are just wasting time”.
As matter of fact, unfortunately the discussion was not closed there….

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