Clini hopes earthquake scientists' convictions 'overturned'

'It's impossible to make predictions' says environment minister

Clini hopes earthquake scientists' convictions 'overturned'

Rome, October 29 - Italian Environment Minister Corrado Clini said Monday he hoped judges would overturn last week's guilty ruling against a group of scientists for manslaughter in connection with the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake that killed more than 300 people. "I hope that the L'Aquila verdict is overturned on appeal because it's impossible to make timely and precise earthquake predictions, and it is not right to ask that of scientists," he told Italian television. Last Monday a court sentenced seven former members of the country's principal natural-disaster risk-assessment body to six years in jail and barred them from public office for allegedly providing "superficial and ineffective" assessment of seismic risk and of disclosing "inaccurate, incomplete and contradictory" information regarding earthquake danger. The ruling, which spurred disbelief and dismay across the global scientific community, led some of Italy's top earthquake experts to resign in protest. Sources told ANSA that Clini had asked to scrap their resignations as a sign of "solidarity with the scientific community on the part of the government". The trial focused on one event in particular, in which the commission met on March 31, 2009 in L'Aquila to examine rumblings that had frightened residents for months. In a memo, the experts concluded that it was "unlikely" that there would be a major quake, though it stressed that the possibility could not be ruled out. One week later the 6.3-magnitude tremor hit, toppling buildings, killing 309 people and displacing 65,000 more in and around the city.

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