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Italian Scientists on Trial for Manslaughter in Wake of 2009 Quake


Rubble lies on the ground beside a postbox in the Piazza della Repubblica in Central L'aquila (January 2010 file photo)

Rubble lies on the ground beside a postbox in the Piazza della Repubblica in Central L'aquila (January 2010 file photo)

A group of Italian earthquake experts went on trial Tuesday accused of manslaughter for allegedly not properly warning the public before an earthquake struck. The 2009 quake killed more than 300 people in the central Italian city of L'Aquila.

The seven defendants, which include scientists and government officials, are accused of giving incomplete and contradictory information to residents of the area about tremors felt before the April 2009 quake.

Prosecutors say residents should have been warned to leave their homes before the quake hit. Much of the town was reduced to rubble.

The defendants are drawing support from seismologists around the world who say it is impossible to predict earthquakes. Last year, more than 5,000 international researchers signed a petition supporting their Italian colleagues and warning that the risk of litigation could discourage scientists and officials from issuing opinions.

Much of Tuesday's hearing was taken up by procedural measures. The next hearing has been scheduled for October 1.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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