Italian scientists convicted of manslaughter after deadly earthquake

'The verdict is perverse and the sentence ludicrous'

Six scientists and one government official have been convicted of manslaughter for failing to properly predict a deadly Italian earthquake, in a decision that is sending chills though the scientific community.

An Italian judge decided that the men were guilty on multiple charges after they gave a falsely reassuring statement six days prior to the 6.3-magnitude earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy on April 6, 2009, which killed 306 people and left the city in ruins.

The decision marks the end of a 13-month trial. Now, Franco Barberi, head of Serious Risks Commission, Enzo Boschi, former president of the National Institute of Geophysics, Giulio Selvaggi, director of National Earthquake Centre, Gian Michele Calvi, director of European Centre for Earthquake Engineering, Claudio Eva, physicist, Mauro Dolce, director of the the Civil Protection Agency’s earthquake risk office and Bernardo De Bernardinis, former vice-president of Civil Protection Agency’s technical department, will spend six years in jail.

The six-year sentence was even harsher than the four-year sentence requested by public prosecutor Fabio Picuti, and it has left the scientific community wondering what’s next. “The verdict is perverse and the sentence ludicrous,” wrote the journal Nature, one day after the decision. “Already some scientists have responded with warnings about the chilling effect on their ability to serve in public risk assessments.”

Luciano Maiani, head of Italy’s disaster service, stepped down after the decision telling an Italian news agency that it was impossible to work in light of the judge’s ruling. “These are professionals who spoke in good faith and were by no means motivated by personal interests, they had always said that it is not possible to predict an earthquake,” Maiani told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

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