Italian earthquake scientists found guilty

Six Italian scientists and an ex-government official have been sentenced to six years in prison over the 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila, about 100 km north-east of Rome.

The 6.3 magnitude quake, that struck on 6 April 2009, heavily damaged the city of L’Aquila and killed 309 people.

The prosecution argued that the scientists gave false reassurances before the earthquake. The defense argued that earthquake prediction is difficult and that it is impossible to make an accurate prediction of major quakes.

The convicted

  • 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
  • Bernardo De Bernardinis, former vice-president of Civil Protection Agency’s technical department

All seven have been sentenced to six years in prison for issuing false reassurances.

Before the convictions, more than 5,000 scientists, organised by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, signed an open letter to the Italian President Napolitano in support of the accused. The letter can be found here (pdf).

The aftermath

The worry is that science itself has been put on trial. Scientists should not have to make statements or not, in worry of being subject to lawsuits. This could discourage scientists becoming involved in public engagement.


IOP News