Six Italian scientists and a government official found guilty of manslaughter for failing to give adequate warning of a fatal earthquake have won their appeal against the conviction.
Judge Fabrizia Ida Francabandera said Monday there was no case to answer, quashing the six-year jail sentence handed down in 2012, Reuters reported.
The seven, members of the official National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks, were accused of negligence and malpractice in comments evaluating the risk of an earthquake that they made less than a week before the disaster occurred.
The 6.3-magnitude quake struck the town of L’Aquila, in Italy’s central Abruzzo region, at 3:32 a.m. on April 6, 2009, killing more than 300 people, injuring more than 1,500 others and destroying tens of thousands of buildings.
International bodies including the American Geophysical Union had condemned the lower court’s verdict, saying the risk of legal repercussions could deter scientists from advising governments or even working to assess seismic risk.
At the heart of the case was whether, under political pressure, the government-appointed experts gave an overly reassuring picture of the risks facing the town.
Families of victims of the quake, and lawyers representing them in lawsuits against the defendants, called Monday’s ruling “shameful” and pledged to appeal. The case can be appealed once more before the ruling becomes definitive.
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