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Conviction of Italian Seismologists Overturned in Appeal

Angus Mackinnon of reported on November 10th, 2014 that

"Seven Italian scientists who faced jail for failing to predict a deadly 2009 earthquake were cleared Monday of manslaughter convictions that had sparked international outrage.

The seven men were sentenced to six years in jail in October 2012 after a court in the medieval town of L'Aquila found them guilty of causing multiple deaths by having negligently downplayed the risk of the town being hit by a major earthquake just days before the killer tremor struck in April 2009."

"But after a month-long appeal trial in the mountain town east of Rome, that verdict was overturned by a panel of three judges which concluded that six of the seven had committed no crime.

The judges partially upheld some of the charges against one defendant, Bernardo De Bernardinis but downgraded his sentence to a two-year suspended prison sentence that will not lead to him having a criminal record.

"The credibility of Italy's entire scientific community has been restored," said Stefano Gresta, the President of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, whose predecessor, Enzo Boschi, was one of the most eminent of the defendants."

The article also noted that

"The journal Nature called the original verdict "perverse" and the sentencing "ludicrous" given the acknowledged impossibility of predicting earthquakes.

The seven convicted men were all members of a Major Risks Committee which met in L'Aquila on March 31, 2009, six days before the 6.3-magnitude quake struck the town, triggering the collapse of many inadequately constructed buildings within its walls and in surrounding villages.

The 28-second quake, which struck in the middle of the night, left thousands homeless, and five years later L'Aquila has only partially been rebuilt."

More information on the verdict can be found here.

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