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Italian Scientists Jailed for Failing to Predict Earthquake

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In a decision that is sending shockwaves through the earth sciences community, an Italian court has sentenced six scientists to six years in jail for failing to accurately predict an earthquake. This is an absurd and dangerous decision that U.S. officials should rebuke, and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano should overturn.

After a few smaller earthquakes had hit the town of L’Aquila, the scientists stated that a larger earthquake was unlikely but possible, emphasizing the uncertainty of their knowledge. When a larger earthquake hit and more than three hundred people were killed, the scientists were put on trial.

At the time, the American Geophysical Union warned that “the charges may also harm international efforts to understand natural disasters and mitigate associated risk, because risk of litigation will discourage scientists and officials from advising their government or even working in the field of seismology and seismic risk assessment.”

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) also weighed in. “Years of research, much of it conducted by distinguished seismologists in your own country, have demonstrated that there is no accepted scientific method for earthquake prediction that can be reliably used to warn citizens of an impending disaster…we worry that subjecting scientists to criminal charges for adhering to accepted scientific practices may have a chilling effect on researchers, thereby impeding the free exchange of ideas necessary for progress in science and discouraging them from participating in matters of great public importance.”

Imagine if the government brought criminal charges against your local meteorologist for not being able to predict the exact path of a tornado. Or took epidemiologists to court for not foreseeing the dangerous effects of a virus that hasn’t emerged. Or put wildlife biologists in jail for failing to predict a grizzly bear attack. Scientists need to be able to share what they know—and admit what they do not know—without the fear of being held criminally responsible should their predictions not hold up.

This, coming from the home country of Galileo. I guess some things never change.

Posted in: Scientific Integrity Tags:

About the author: Michael Halpern is an expert on political interference in science and solutions to reduce suppression, manipulation, and distortion of government science. See Michael's full bio.

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32 Responses

  1. Andrea says:

    Mr. Gianmichele Calvi, one of the “scientits” condemned, is now accused of fraud.
    He is director of Eucentre, seismic research center of Pavia.
    Eucentre is sponsored by the company Alga, which has provided the earthquake-resistant materials for reconstruction.
    These earthquake-resistant materials has not passed the tests made ​​by San Diego’s university.
    Mr. Gianmichele Calvi, Eurocentre, was in charge of the control of those materials, in total conflict of interest being paid by Alga, supplier of materials.

  2. Luca Dalbosco says:

    “According to an open letter to the president of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, signed by more than 5,000 members of the scientific community, the seven Italians essentially face criminal charges for failing to predict the earthquake — even though pinpointing the time, location and strength of a future earthquake in the short term remains, by scientific consensus, technically impossible.”

    This is just not true. They have been charged not because they failed to predict the earthquake, but because they predicted (and that’s scientifically impossible) that there would NOT be an earthquake. And this without any serious investigation and following political input.

    Facts not opinions!

  3. Leonardo Colossi says:

    Michael Hapern,If they are professional ,they must contract responsabilities.Everyone is responsible for their job.Sure they could not predict the way the earthquake hapened,but they made a huge mistake by sayng everyhing is okay,they must pay for that,eventhough they haven’t had the intention.The point is that they are not doing experiences at the universities,the are dealing with reality.

  4. Jack Dekker says:

    The Italian legal system seems to proceed in an way I am not familar with as a North American. The judge apparently sentenced these people to 6 years in jail (after the prosecutor recommended 4 years), but rendered his sentence BEFORE his legal finding of the case. The basis of the extraordinary sentence FOLLOWS the findings of fact. So one finds one self condemned without knowledge of what it is you have done wrong. Maybe he judge needs an opportunity to read the news to see how his decision is received, and what criticisms are made, to allow a more fruitful basis in his findings of fact.

    Galileo indeed. Maybe even a taste of Kafka.

    • Olmo Forni says:

      This is the procedure dictated by law in Italy, but this by no means imply that the judge first decides the sentence and only later he finds a justification for it. The so called “legal findings” are already present, but to avoid the sentence being voided on procedural grounds, the judge has up to 4 weeks to publish them.

      The trial has been going on for quite some time, defence and prosecution both presented plentyful of proof. Publishing the motivation is a follow up document that allows to follow the legal reasoning and the proofs that lead the judge to the sentence.

      Again, it may sound counterintuitive, but that’s the law.

      And by the way, Galileao was condemned forr challenging a dogma by his observation. In this case the whole Great Risks Committee has been condemned because, instead of sharing the state of the art knowledge they had (that is, nobody can predict an earthquake), they reassured th population saying everything is ok, go back to your homes. That is, they lied, or at best they depicted the facts in a misleading way, which had many people to go back in theirr houses rather than stay the hell away, as they would have done otherwise.

      The Great Risk Commission role (and that of Protezione Civile as a whole) was to warn th population and avoid widespread deaths. They followed a politically dictated agenda instead and that’s the reason they were on trial to begin with.

  5. Olmo Forni says:

    A brief follow up to the translation I posted above, that is my own two pence

    1) If the scientists, at the best of their knowledge at the time, would have just agreed that it is impossible to forecast an earthquake, there would have been no legal implication for them.

    2) What they did – and that is probably an ethical issue before being a criminal offence – was to agree with a political body to minimize a threat (the occurrence of a disaster) and therefore reassure the population.

    3) They also presented the theory (apparently bonkers, but I’m no expert to judge) that the seismic cluster was actually beneficial in preventing a massive earthquake to happen, as it would have released the trapped kinetic energy.

    4) The judge condemned the defendants not because they were wrong (which would be very bad nwes for scientists in all fields) but because, as experts in the risk evaluation committee, they abided to present facts differently from the true knowledge of the matter (that is, they did not know what was coming because nobody can know for sure) in order to serve a political agenda (that is, reassure the population because everything is ok and there is no risk of a big one coming).

    The root of the problem is all there: they allowed the body they were in as eminent experts in their field to lie to the population, and this has resulted in massive casualties.

    If they had said: we don’t know if and when another earthqauke will come, there is little risk, but we urge the population to remain vigilant, that would have been the truth and the kind of communication exptected from a Disaster Risk Reduction agency such as Protezione Civile.

    But they didn’t. When the message “everything is ok” came out, THEY DID NOT SAY OTHERWISE! And, I’m sorry to say so, even though they are not those who actually spread the message, they are accessories to such lie.

    I would like to point out two other key facts in this matter.

    First: risk = threat + likelyhood to happen.

    Weighted risk maps include the population in a certain area or the possible other negative effects a threat would pose in a determined area. For instance: a highly seismic zone with no population is very low risk. The same zone but with a heavy industry or let’s say a nuclear plant present would, on the contrary, be high risk because of the possible effects in the aftermath of the quake. Therefore L’Aquila was indeed a risk prone zone and all the precautions of the case should have been followed.

    Second: as someone as already mentioned, most of modern houses were destroyed because the national building standards were not implemented, low quality material was used for some constructions and others had undergone several remodelings, often conducted illegally. There are ongoing trials against those who build the Student House which collapsed, but not only. And there is no geologist or earthquake expert defending him or her self in those trials.

    This was not a trial against science but against lies, which is something completely different. would have expected a little more factual and evidence based information from a Union of Scientists and the place of birth of investigative journalists. I guess I was wrong.

  6. Michael Halpern says:

    Thanks for all of these passionate comments. I’m not arguing that many people do not feel misled and angry. We should be careful to distinguish between what the scientists said and what the government officials said. What we certainly have here is a lesson in the importance of accurately communicating knowledge about low-probability, high risk disasters. My heart goes out to all who were affected personally.

    What I understand is that Italians were nervous about a larger earthquake after several smaller ones. A government commission was set up. The scientists shared what they knew and, importantly, also explained what they did not know. Then a government official told the public not to worry.

    Instead, an earthquake did happen and killed more than 300 people. Their families, friends and fellow citizens – as well as the broader public — understandably felt that their government had misled them.

    From what we know about the case, it seems politicians oversold the scientists’ ability to predict an earthquake to the public. They also downplayed uncertainty in the scientists’ projections. But the scientists should not be punished with imprisonment and fines for serving on a commission and sharing their work.

    Here in the United States during the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, scientists made estimates of how much oil was flowing out of the hole in the ocean floor. Then government officials spun those conclusions to paint a more rosy picture of the cleanup efforts.

    Government officials use data and scientific advice to assure citizens–or advance political agendas–all the time. But governments do not generally then file criminal charges against the scientists who share their knowledge and expertise.

    This is a sad lesson in the importance of governments not overpromising what science can predict, and the importance of scientists being clear about what they know and what they do not. But a manslaughter conviction is unjustified and will make many scientists think twice about contributing to public understanding.

    In this case, we all lose.

    Stephen S. Hall writing in Nature has a compelling description of the story with many of its complexities from when the suits were filed here:
    http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110914/full/477264a.html

    • Fjodor Ardizzoia says:

      The fact is, the scientists that were on trial in this case were also government officials, and the problem was not that they didn’t predict a earthquake. They simply did nothing to prevent the damages that an earthquake could produce – and did produce.
      As in many other countries, Italy has a map of the seismic risk with different degrees for each area: L’Aquila and surrounding areas, which were repeatedly struck by heavy earthquakes in the past, were downgraded to a “safer” level, and when the seismic series started, nobody even tried to revise such classification. No checks were done on public buildings, no one considered drawing emergency plans, nobody advised the population on what to do should a major event occur.
      Now, if it’s impossible for a geologist to foresee an earthquake, it is not impossible for them to understand that a major event in a city full of ill-built houses could be a catastrophe, and going back to 2009, you will see that too few were the voices that raised from the scientific community to alert either the public or the government.
      This verdict should be seen not as a punishment for scientists who could not foresee something, but as a reward to those (few) scientists and researchers who had the courage and the nerve to stand up against the general, tranquillising advice of the government officials backed by the way too timid opinions of the professors that were called as advisors.

      The sad thing, in all of this mess, is that nobody but a few civil engineers – some of which lost relatives and friends in the earthquake, and to whom goes my admiration – ever tried to say a simple word: Sorry.
      Nobody in the government, nobody in the civil protection, nobody in the local authorities, no one.

  7. Alberto Garbino says:

    Failure to predict? Boy, you got this completely wrong. I’d say that some scientists have been, willfully or not, manipulated to join a show for the media. In fact these ‘scientists’ were jailed because they predicted something and reassured the population without any scientifical evidence, not because they didn’t predict something…
    It’s ironical that so many foreigners (AAAS included) can’t understand such a simple political fact (and distort the reason for a sentence which is quite clear). I guess this is positional warfare: scientists side with other scientists no matter what.

  8. @Michael Halpern
    Sorry for the links, but some readers should check what the scientists of the Great Risks Commission actually said. They did not go on tv, the Protezione Civile’s vice chair De Bernardinis – a political appointee who had called the meeting – did. He reassured the inhabitants of Sulmona, another town where quakes (that did not happen) were being predicted by an amateur.
    He can be faulted for saying that “according to the scientists” in L’Aquila risks were declining, which wasn’t true. But the Court made no distinction and decided that all of them provided “inaccurate, incomplete and contradictory” information. This isn’t true either.

    • Thank you Sylvie for posting the only comment based on facts and not on speculation. I invite everyone with some Italian knowledge to read the official report of the Commission meeting, signed by all attendees, as to the link provided by Sylvie. Although I am personally touched by this trial (my father is one of the 6 experts), I am also a scientist hence used to (try to) be objective. Where are the foundations of the accusation? I cannot find one single sentence sustaining it.

  9. Anna Di Lellio says:

    Dear Michael Halpers, I don’t know how you followed this case and whether you relied only on the information that the indicted scientists sent you. You seem to lack some important pieces of information. Your article would be impeccable if it referred to another country, and another situation.

    You write, “Imagine if the government brought criminal charges against your local meteorologist for not being able to predict the exact path of a tornado.”

    This is not the right analogy.

    It should rather be, “Imagine if the government called your local meteorologist during the tornado season, with a tornado approaching, to assure you that it would not reach a threatening strength, even if there is no way of predicting that. And the meteorologist forgot his scientific and public duties to please the government.”

    Both in Italy and the US we know that natural phenomena cannot be predicted with absolute accuracy, but we also know that scientists, if they want to have their independence respected, should be independent.

  10. Marco Coletti says:

    At present time is rather pointless to judge the judges.
    We should wait for the publication of reasons for the sentence.
    We already have some clues that the scientists agreed to please the politicians by reassuring the population that the seismic risk was negligible, instead of refusing the job (and the resulting wage and prestige) or at least declare impotence.

  11. Massimo Evangelisti says:

    Mr. Halpern, please immediately change that title, now! It is absolutely inaccurate and it does not represent what happened.

    As pointed out by other commentators, it’s not a matter of “Italian scientists jailed for failing to predict earthquake”. Those “scientists” were appointed members of a political body, that had gathered to observe the situation and give out directions following the earthquake swarm that had already hit the area of L’Aquila. But because they had been instructed so by politicians, they went out of the meeting saying “No danger at all, get back to your houses, y’all!” with reassuring smiles on their faces. They failed to do a number of things that were IN THEIR DUTIES to do, such as sending technicians for the appropriate checks and warning the population. They belittled the gravity of the situation, to the point of hiding it, because they were instructed so by the Italian government, which, needless to say, is co-responsible of the tragedy, with Berlusconi being the person behind this crime.
    Not only the Italian judges have done well, they should also go on now and charge the politicians too. The story is not over.

  12. Alfredo says:

    The article is based on actually unreliable sources. The statement “an Italian court has sentenced six scientists to six years in jail for failing to accurately predict an earthquake” is wrong at all. The scientists were prosecuted not for failing to predict the earthquake, but on the opposite because they stated there should not be no earthquake, despite the continuous seismic activity which was being recorded in the last 4 months preceeding the earthquake and the seismical history of L’Aquila and its sorroundings, an area clearly classified as an high seismic hazard zone. They said: “the situation is good, don’t be concerned”.

  13. Gianluca says:

    They couldn’t foresee the earthquake, this is true. At the same time they couldn’t foresee the end of the seismic events.
    But the fact is that they went out from the meeting room telling to the TV’s to go safe home everything is ok, the eathquake is quite over, the worst is back.
    For political reasons they were told to reassure citizens, and they did it.

    This is their fault, mind that Bertolaso, the Civil Protection leader, said that this meeting was only a ‘mediatic event’ (his own words in a phone tapping) made to reassure people .
    This is their crime.

    Those people “sold” their dignity of scientist to political needs, you should be furious about that!

    Dear journalist, Italy is sadly too complex, this nation needs to be studied a lot before writing about it.

    • Gianluca says:

      This is the phone tappig… Obviously in italian.
      Mr Halpren please please please find someone who can traslate it for you.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rROgB5QMgHs

      • Olmo Forni says:

        Here is the translation of Bertolaso (Head of Protezione Civile at the time, the Italian equivalent of FEMA) wiretapping. I hope this can help the ongoing debate, but please note this is only a literal amateur translation done to the best of my knowledge.

        “[text] On the evening of March 30, 2009, seven days before L’Aquila’s earthquake, Guido bertolaso calls Daniela Stati, Abbruzzo’s regional counsellor for Civil Protection, over the phone.
        That afternoon there had been a 4.1 magnitude tremor [that lead to] offices and schools being evacuated and alarmed the population.
        Daniela Stati: Hello.
        Guido Bertolaso: I’m Guido Bertolaso.
        DS: Oh, good evening…
        GB: [overlapping]
        DS: Fine thanks, what about you, Guido?
        GB: Well. Listen, now De Bernardinis will call you, that is my deputy, to ask you to organize a meeting tomorrow in L’Aquila, on this issue of the seismic cluster [sciame sismico, NDT], that continues…
        DS: Yes.
        GB: …In order shut up any imb**ile, to placate/sedate any insinuations, worries, et cetera [SIC!].
        DS: Thank you Guido, thanks a million [idiom, NDT].
        GB: But you have to tell yours [people] not to make any statement where no more tremors are foretold, because this is bu****it; you never say this stuff when talking about earthquakes.
        DS: Well noted.
        GB: Something was out, they tell me, a nwes flash saying , but this is never to be told, not even under torture…
        DS: You see Guido, I didn’t know this, and I apologize for them, but I just came out of the Regional Council…
        GB: It’s ok [figurati], no problem.But tell [them] when they have to make a press release to call our Press/Communication Office, which now has an Honoris causa degree in Information in Emergencies, and they know how to behave and to avoid boomerang [effects]. Because if in two hours there is a earth tremor, what would everybody say? Do you understand?
        DS: [overlapping] Of course
        GB: An earthquake is a minefield.
        DS: I will call them immediately.
        GB: I mean, we have to be extra cautious. Anyway, this thing, now, we are going to fix it. The important thing is that tomorrow… now, De Bernardinis is calling you to tell you where you want to hold the meeting. I won’t come, but Zambelletti, Barberi, Boschi will, that is the eminent experts [luminari] on earthquakes in Italy. I will have them to come to L’Aquila, either at your place or at the Prefecture – you decide where, I don’t care at all – so that it’s more of a mediatic initiative, do you understand?
        DS: yes, yes.
        GB: So that they, who are the leading experts on earthquakes, will say: the situation is normal; events like these happen; it is better to have 100 4.1 Richter magnitude tremors than no tremor at all, because 100 tremors free the energy and there will be no big one [tremor that will hurt - scossa che fa male]. Do you understand?
        DS: Ok, so now I will talk to them, I try to stop the press release…
        GB: No, no, no. They already did it. Now my people will try to clutch at straws. You now talk with De Bernardinis and decide where you are having the meeting tomorrow, than spread the news you are having it, and that IT’S NOT [stress in the original, NDT] because we are scared and worried, but because we want to reassure the people. And instead of me and you talking we let talk the opinion of the most eminent scientist in the field of seismology.
        DS: That sounds good, and then we’ll see each other tomorrow afternoon in Rome because President Chiodi said there was a meeting on the Mediterranean Games…
        GB: Uhm… I won’t be there, there will be Aiello, because tomorrow afternoon I will be in Naples.
        DS: Ok, then I will send you a report on what happened.
        GB: O.
        DS: Thanks Guido, have a nice evening.

        [text] On April 6, 2009, seven days after this phone call, 309 people died. Over 1500 wounded.

        Certainly, this wire tapping will fall like a boulder on the trial against De Bernardinis and the scientists at the meeting (Great Risks commission – Commissione Grandi Rischi), now ongoing in L’Aquila. They have all been charged of multiple homicide and culpable disaster for not having correctly evaluated the seismic cluster.

        Now it has been uncovered that they were sent there not to express a technical opinion over an imminent earthquake but to absolve a mere “mediatic” function.

        —————————————————————————

        [text] March 31, 2009 – Here are the words [expressed] at the end of the Commissione Grandi Rischi’s meeting.

        Massimo Cialente, L’Aquila’s Mayor: What we aquired: it is the case of a seismic cluster, that is characterised by having a high frequency but a low amplitude. This means as people, we perceive it with a lot of intensity, but the damage on structures, let’s say like this, is lower, due to the reduced amplitude.

        [text] Bernardo De Bernardinis, deputy head of Protezione Civile, March 31, 2009
        BDB: From the point of view – as I had the chance to express to Sulmona’s Mayor, who I personally called to make him feel we were present not only monitoring and overseeing with the INGV [] and all the others institutes, evaluating the situation, but that we were present, as National and Regional Civil Protection, side by side with the mayors, in informing and reassuring the population. Evidently, today we are posing ourselves the problem of understanding this.. more than this event that is situated in the phenomenology of events in Italian seismic zones in a form…
        Journalis: Isn’t it a little anomalous?
        BDB: In its form, now, the scientist will evaluate it. I act as an operative, I took off my hat of scholar. But I’d say it’s placed in the category, let’s say a phenomenology, certainly [senz'altro]… normal from the point of view of the seismic phenomena one would expect in this…, let’s say this typology of territory, which is centered in Abbruzzo but also affected Lazio and Marche, it oscillated.”

        NB this is the actual translation (apologies for not being avle to give the tone of the speech every single time) of the video, not the opinion of the translator, that is me. Apologies for typos, my fault, and the convoluted sentence structure, which I could have edited but I tried to remain true to the audio.

  14. Carlo Santucci says:

    Questo è solo un processo politico, e i Nostri Scienziati sono solo dei capri epiatori.
    A L’Aquila è crollata la “Casa dello Studente” perchè costruita male e la Provincia dell’Aquila da 2 anni aveva pronta la nuova sede che NON E’ CROLLATA.
    E’ crollato l’Ospedale, costruito in quarantanni male e rubando soldi.
    E’ crollato il Centro Storico, fatto di case antiche, appesantite da lavori di ristrutturazione criminali con sovrapposizione di pavimenti e soppalchi senza controlli, quasi tutte possedute da benestanti.
    Non è un processo alla Scienza, è ancora peggio, è un processo alla “politica”. Nel nostro Bel Paese abbiamo avuto Romano Prodi, 2 volte Presidente dell’IRI, 2 volte Presidente del Consiglio, Presidente della Commissione Europea, etc… nonostante questi sapeva dove i terroristi delle Brigate Rosse tenevano prigioniero Aldo Moro, dopo aver massacrato i 5 poliziotti (padri di famiglia) della scorta. La Magistratura del nostro Paese, la “stampa” e la “politica” presero PER BUONE le giustificazioni che Prodi diede nel 1981, tre anni dopo la strage di via Mario Fani e la fuga dei brigatisti grazie alla sua soffiata. Egli disse ai Magistrati di aver saputo del covo di via Gradoli 96 a Roma “durante una seduta spiritica” parlando “con gli spiriti di La Pira e Don Sturzo”.
    Questa è l’Italia, si processano gli scienziati per colpire Silvio Berlusconi. Purtroppo da noi c’è un EMERGENZA DEMOCRATICA fatta da giornalisti, magistrati e politica collusa e reazionaria.

    • Tom says:

      Could you please explain this sentence: “…si processano gli scienziati per colpire Silvio Berlusconi.”…
      If I have understood well, I guess you are one of those people that still defend Mr. B and believe that he has done something (even a small) we Italian can be proud of. I’m not defending Prodi or other Italian politician, but (as far as I’ve understood well) you are still defending Mr. B and this is quite concerning (or really sad if you are a scientist or similar).
      Tom

    • Massimo Evangelisti says:

      First of all, you should write in English while posting on an American blog. Second, you’d better discard your bias before talking. Your arguments (if any) are totally invalid. Stick to the facts and talk about them, please.

  15. Alessandro M. says:

    First of all you must wait for the formal filing of the text of the judgment before knowing the reasons of the court.
    At the moment there are only reports of newspapers that are, for obvious reasons, incomplete, misleading or otherwise unreliable.
    In any case, the six years sentence must be upheld on Appeal Court and finally, if necessary, to the Supreme Court(third degree of judgment of the Italian criminal law system).

    • Carlo Santucci says:

      La solita scusa per giustificare l’ingiustificabile. La sentenza è stata letta in TV davanti a giornalisti di tutto il mondo. e tutto il mondo ha visto che – all’occorrenza – la magistratura-collusa è pronta a tornare all’Inquisizione pur di screditare l’Italia che NON li vuole. Questa sentenza è solo una ennesima VERGOGNA.

      • Alessandro M. says:

        Io non giustifico l’ingiustificabile, né a favore né pro i condannati.
        La lettura della sentenza non significa nulla da un punto di vista giuridico, perché quella è la lettura del solo dispositivo.
        Quello che volevo dire è che bisogna leggere le motivazioni del dispositivo, che saranno depositate in Cancelleria dalla Corte.
        La giustizia si fa nelle aule di tribunale, non sui giornali.
        In ogni caso.

      • Fjodor Ardizzoia says:

        Se è per questo, da italiano che paga le tasse, rispetta la legge e fa il proprio dovere, trovo più vergognoso vedere un mio connazionale che non perde occasione di sputtanare il proprio paese all’estero per non si sa quale tornaconto. Chi se ne frega di Prodi e di Berlusconi: se sapeva tutto questo, perché non ha denunciato prima? Perché non ha fatto il casino che sta facendo ora?
        lei accusa la magistratura di essere collusa, non so su quali basi visto che la magistratura è de facto subordinata alla politica che fa le leggi, ma lei che cosa ha fatto per cambiare il “sistema”?

  16. Andrea says:

    The meeting in question was designed as a media operation.
    these scientists did not meet to study the situation but to give a strong message from politics.
    There is a difference between wrong predictions not want to predict.
    From Italy.

  17. Fjodor Ardizzoia says:

    Dear Mr Halpern,
    I would suggest you check your sources and your information, because there are a few mistakes – widely present in the whole of the Italian press.
    It was not the scientists on trial, but a governmental body that was called upon to decide for emergency measures as soon as the seismic events started.
    It is obvious that a large earthquake cannot be foreseen, but it is equally obvious that a civil protection body should be able to understand what would be the effects of such an earthquake before it happens.
    In l’Aquila no controls were made on houses, public buildings (hospitals included), and no emergency plan was drawn at all. It takes a civil engineer less than 2 hours to understand if a building may resist or fall down in case of seismic event. And nobody in the “Commissione Grandi Rischi” even considered the opportunity of sending technicians around to check at least hospitals and public facilities.
    That commission was created to protect citizens from natural disasters, and they simply failed, not because they did not foresee an earthquake, but because they couldn’t foresee its effects.
    In Italy we have a way too long list of disasters and deaths for such behaviours, and it was well time that somebody started paying for not doing their job. Now it should be politicians’ turn, and I personally hope that judges in l’Aquila won’t give up.

  18. Larry Marquardt says:

    Where then is the ‘uncertainty’ in the climate debate? It surely exists! I agree that the Italian court’s prosecution of these scientists is absurd, but what about the political bullying of those who dare to differ on climate change?

  19. Brian R says:

    This sounds pretty ridiculous and reckless and an embarrassment for the Italian government. I hope that the international attention this has received will convince someone in power to revisit this decision. Kinda nice to know, though, that there are judges and prosecutors who don’t understand science in other countries too!

    • Carlo Santucci says:

      Le assicuro che in Italia abbiamo la maggior parte della popolazione seriamente indignata per questi continui esempi di Magistratura collusa. Viviamo in un momento molto delicato ma Noi siamo il Paese di Galileo e prima o poi verremo fuori da questo pantano. Un saluto.

  20. Wladik Derevianko says:

    This case shows ignorance of the lawers and politicians.

    In my opinion, lawers should have a good knowledge of mathematics and logics. Otherwise they will fail to grasp what the justice means.