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Quake Experts to Be Tried for Manslaughter

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Science  03 Jun 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6034, pp. 1135-1136
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6034.1135

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Summary

Seven scientists and technicians who analyzed seismic activity ahead of the devastating earthquake that struck the Italian town of L'Aquila on 6 April 2009 will indeed face trial for manslaughter, a judge announced last week. The defendants are members of Italy's great risks committee, whose job is to assess risks of potential natural disasters. A year ago, they were accused by L'Aquila prosecutors of having failed to provide adequate warning of the magnitude-6.3 earthquake that killed 308 people. Given the uncertainties in earthquake predictions, the accusation surprised and angered many. Thousands of seismologists signed a letter of protest, and international scientific groups, including AAAS (publisher of Science), condemned the prosecutor's plan to bring manslaughter charges. Nevertheless, Judge Giuseppe Gargarella ruled last week that the case should go to trial.

  • * Edwin Cartlidge is a writer based in Rome.