According to ABC News
, the seven scientists are accused of giving "inexact, incomplete and contradictory information" regarding the severity of the tremors in L'Aquila before the April 6, 2009 6.3 earthquake. The Italian city of L'Aquila is a city located in central Italy, northeast of Rome, the capital of the Province of L'Aquila and the Abruzzo Region. Called "the Eagle," it has a population of approximately 73,000 people.
Over 5,200 international researchers, professors, postdocs, seismologists and researchers from Japan to Martinique and New Zealand to Costa Rica, have signed a petition showing support for the Italian scientists and experts. Additionally, the Seismological Society of America
has sent the Italian president a letter, labeling the charges as an unprecedented legal attack on science. The Prosecutor's Office in L'Aquila has indicted the scientists because of their failure to say that a "significant quake was possible," preventing the area's population from taking preventive measures.
Usually when manslaughter charges in Italy are brought against natural disasters, they typically will focus on violations of building codes, with the buildings located in seismic regions. This is not an unusual situation. The 2002 earthquake that triggered the collapse of a school in San Giuliano di Puglia and 27 children died, prosecutors charged that the shoddy construction of the school had attributed to the collapse, not the earthquake.
The 2009 earthquake had reduced the town of L'Aquila to rubble while survivors of the thousands were forced to live in tent camps or temporary housing for months. Meanwhile, ABC reported that a memo had been released , pby the scientists saying that it was "improbable" that a major tremble would occur, though it added that one couldn't be excluded.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011, was the first day of the trial which basically involved procedural details of the civil case, to be heard alongside the criminal case. The families of the deceased are seeking $68.2 million dollars in damages.
When asked if the people should just sit back and relax with a glass of wine with the earthquake coming, the answer of Bernardo De Bernardinis, vice-chief of the technical department of Italy's civil protection agency, was "Absolutely, absolutely a Montepulciano doc," he responded, referring to a high-end red. "This seems important.
The next hearing for the scientists will be October 1, 2011.