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Last Updated:

Oct 25, 2012 - 12:13:34 AM

2nd Update: Scientists Jailed

By Earth Changes Media
Oct 24, 2012 - 2:03:48 PM


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Some commentators had warned that any convictions would dissuade other experts from sharing their expertise for fear of legal retribution. Filippo Dinacci, lawyer for the-then deputy director of the Civil Protection agency Bernardo De Bernardinis and its seismic risk office chief Mauro Dolce, said it was "difficult to understand" the verdict-after criticizing the charges last week as something out of "medieval criminal law". "It seems to me that we were far beyond the limits of the concept of responsibility.

We have to be careful because some mechanisms could have a waterfall effect on other public institutions," he said. The government committee met after a series of small tremors in the preceding weeks had sown panic among local inhabitants-particularly after a resident began making worrying unofficial earthquake predictions.

"I am crestfallen, desperate. I thought I would be acquitted. I still don't understand what I'm accused of," said Enzo Boschi, who was the head of Italy's National Geophysics Institute (INGV) at the time.

The bright blue classroom-sized temporary tribunal in L'Aquila built on industrial estate after the town's historic court was flattened in the quake - was packed with lawyers, advisors and international media for the verdict. Four of the defendants were in court, as well as a small group of survivors.

All seven defendants were members of the Major Risks Committee which met in L'Aquila on March 31, 2009-six days before the quake devastated the region, tearing down houses and churches and leaving thousands of people homeless. "This is a historic sentence, above all for the victims," said lawyer Wania della Vigna, who represents 11 plaintiffs, including the family of an Israeli student who died when a student residence collapsed on top of him. "It also marks a step forward for the justice system and I hope it will lead to change, not only in Italy but across the world," she said.

Aldo Scimia, whose mother was killed, welled up as the verdict was read out. "We cannot call this a victory. It's a tragedy, whatever way you look at it, it won't bring our loved ones back," he said. "I continue to call this a massacre at the hand of the state, but at least now we hope that our children may live safer lives."

Picuti had slammed the experts for providing "an incomplete, inept, unsuitable and criminally mistaken" analysis, which reassured locals and led many to stay indoors when the first tremors hit.

Italy's top seismologists were called to evaluate the situation and De Bernardinis gave press interviews saying the seismic activity in L'Aquila posed "no immediate danger". "The scientific community continues to reassure the public that there is no current method to predict exactly when and where an earthquake will hit".

"They are not guilty of anything, the earthquake's no one's fault," said the Government lawyer Carlo Sica, who had called for the seven defendants to be acquitted, noting that the 'documented minutes' from the March 31st meeting were not valid as evidence because they were only written up after the April 6th quake.

Alessandra Stefano, the head of the European Center of Earthquake Engineering, said "The ruling in my opinion is not fair. We will certainly be appealing."

The case has sparked outrage in the international scientific community when the charges were brought against the geophysicists in 2010, with many complaining that they were merely scapegoats and warning against putting science on trial.

Over 5,000 members of the scientific community sent an open letter to President Giorgio Napolitano denouncing the trial against colleagues for failing to predict a quake-a feat widely acknowledged to be impossible. The other defendants are Giulio Selvaggi, head of the INGV's national earthquake center in Rome; Franco Barberi from Rome's University Three and Claudio Eva from the University of Genoa.

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