Six Italian scientists and a government official have been sentenced to six years in prison over statements they made prior to a 2009 earthquake that killed 309 in the town of L'Aquila.
A year-long trial came to a close today (Oct. 22) with the verdict, which alarmed earth scientists worldwide.
"I hope the Italians realize how backwards they are in this L'Aquila trial and its verdict," Erik Klemetti, an assistant professor of geosciences at Denison University in Ohio, wrote on Twitter, adding that the verdict was a "terrible precedent."
According to prosecutors, the scientists and official downplayed the risks of a large quake in L'Aquila, Italy, after a series of tremors shook the city in early 2009. On April 6, 2009, a magnitude-6.3 quake hit, killing 309 people. L'Aquila's medieval architecture led to numerous building collapses during the quake. [See Photos of L'Aquila Earthquake Destruction]
It took Judge Marco Billi just more than four hours to reach a verdict, according to the BBC. The scientists were found guilty of multiple manslaughter.
At the controversial March 31 meeting in L'Aquila, earth scientist Enzo Boschi, a defendant in the case, acknowledged the uncertainty, calling a large earthquake "unlikely," but saying that the possibility could not be excluded. In a post-meeting press conference, however, Department of Civil Protection official Bernardo De Bernardinis, also a defendant, told citizens there was "no danger."
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