Six of the seven scientists and government experts convicted of manslaughter for downplaying the risk of an earthquake before the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake disaster, that killed 309 people, have been acquitted of all charges.
Giulio Selvaggi one of the seismologists on trial who gave a seminar at Durham University last year on the earthquake said in court: “I think there is nothing more important for a seismologist to do in a seismic country than to put him – or herself at the disposal of society to help understand what is happening. I went into the meeting on 31 March 2009 with that conviction and I would go back with it today”. (via The Guardian)
When news of the trial broke scientific organisations came forward to rally against a verdict that convicted scientific experts of failing to predict an earthquake. The judge who gave the conviction said he made the decision because the accused ‘failed to carry out their legally binding duties as “public officials.”’
Yet the scientists convicted said they disagreed with the message communicated by government to the public which reassured that an earthquake would not occur. The official message spread by the Civil Protection Department was not in touch with science and failed to acknowledge the importance of not underestimating the occurrence of an earthquake in a region known to be prone to seismic events, even if at the time it seemed unlikely.
Bernando De Bernardinis former Vice Director of the government’s Civil Protection Department, who said there ‘was no danger’ of an earthquake before it struck L’Aquila, was sentenced two years in prison for manslaughter by the court.