Italy no quake warning - court convicts 7

2012-10-22 22:13

L'Aquila - An Italian court convicted seven scientists and experts of manslaughter on Monday for failing to adequately warn citizens before an earthquake struck central Italy in 2009, killing more than 300 people.

The court in L'Aquila also sentenced the defendants to six years in prison. Each one is a member of the national Great Risks Commission.

In Italy, convictions aren't definitive until after at least one level of appeals, so it is unlikely any of the defendants would face jail immediately.

Scientists worldwide had decried the trial as ridiculous, contending that science has no reliable way of predicting earthquakes.

Among those convicted were some of Italy's most prominent and internationally respected seismologists and geological experts, including Enzo Boschi, former head of the national Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology.

"I am dejected, desperate," Boschi said after the verdict. "I thought I would have been acquitted. I still don't understand what I was convicted of."

The trial began in September 2011 in this Apennine town, whose devastated historic centre is still largely a ghost town.

Officials afraid

The defendants were accused in the indictment of giving "inexact, incomplete and contradictory information" about whether small tremors felt by L'Aquila residents in the weeks and months before the 6 April, 2009, quake should have constituted grounds for a quake warning.

The 6.3-magnitude quake killed 308 people in and around the medieval town and forced survivors to live in tent camps for months.

Many much smaller earth tremors had rattled the area in the months before the quake, causing frightened people to wonder if they should evacuate.

"I consider myself innocent before God and men," said another convicted defendant, Bernardo De Bernardinis, a former official of the national Civil Protection agency.

Prosecutors had sought conviction and four-year sentences during the non-jury trial, which was led by a judge.

A defence lawyer, Filippo Dinacci, told reporters that the sentence would have "big repercussions" on public administration since officials would be afraid to "do anything."

  • M.T.Selepe - 2012-10-23 03:20

    It is ridiculous to convict scientist over a natural occurence of events,it is still highly impossible to accurately predict earthquake occurences even with the current technology.Seismologists and Geologists are sometimes caught off guard like any body else,and there is no way they can be held reliable for warning signals that are usual inaccurate themselves.This is not good at all!

  • alfred.karius - 2012-10-23 05:40

    Has Italy gone insane? Convicting scientists for failing to predict an earthquake sounds positivly Darkage. Its so bizzare I find it difficult to believe.

  • graeme.stockwell - 2012-10-23 06:51

    When the day came for these guys to justify their salaries, research grants and free lunches they failed. They were probably at a volcano conference in Iceland at the time.

      LanfearM - 2012-10-23 11:19

      I suppose you know ALL about their salaries, grants and "free" lunches! You don't even know how little academics get, neh. Only those few lucky enough to write massively popular books that sell, are ever rich or even well off. You also clearly do not understand the nature of scientific exploration if that is your attitude. Nobody can accurately predict the extent and verocity of an earth quake. Yet. A lot of progress has been made in this field, but nothing is certain when you work with natural forces, especially the weather. Yet. I love how guys like you enjoy every minute of your modern lives and the technology available to you, but you always diss the scientists who do research and work to provide that technology.

  • simon.shee - 2012-10-23 08:25

    Earth Scientists cannot accurately predict when earthquakes are going to occur. It seems like the Italian injustice system just wanted someone to blame.

  • PumaFred - 2012-10-23 08:51

    So no more weather forecasts in Italy if this is the attitude

  • LanfearM - 2012-10-23 11:16

    This is absolutely ridiculous! What an insanely stupid verdict! What is next? Will we have house-arrest for accepting big bang theory? Will the weatherman on tv be arrested if it rains when he said it wouldn't? This is a pathetic farce! Yet another case of the ultra-conservatives trying to stymie scientific exploration.

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