Seven members of an Italian commission that assesses major risks like earthquakes have been indicted on manslaughter charges for allegedly not adequately informing residents of the potential danger posed by the seismic activity that shook the Abruzzo region for months before a fatal earthquake killed 309 people in April 2009. Prosecutors say that by playing down the risk of a big earthquake, the panel did not allow the local population to make adequately informed decisions about whether to stay at home or not.
What’s the Big Idea?
The defendants—seismologists, scientists and members of the federal Civil Protection Agency—deny the accusation, and the blogosphere and parts of the scientific community have been decrying the case as a witch hunt and accusing the prosecutors of putting science on trial. “An earthquake is an unpredictable event, and the communication of that was correct. It was not reassuring, it was scientifically neutral,” said one defense lawyer of the message passed to the public in a news conference before the quake.