By Sarah Barchus
The Italian court a convicted six scientists of manslaughter on Monday for failing to predict the devastating earthquake that struck L'Aquila in 2009, the Cable News Network reported.
The six scientists from the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology and a member of the Civil Protection Agency are held responsible for the 300 deaths that resulted from the 6.3 magnitude earthquake. The scientists and the official face six years in prison if their appeals are denied, CNN reported.
After a series of small earthquakes and six days before the L'Aquila earthquake struck, the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks reassured Italian residents that a major earthquake was possible but not likely, ABC News reported. After the disaster, a group of the residents sued the scientists and the official for failing to warn them of the danger.
In order to support those on trial, 5,000 scientists from around the world signed a letter saying it is impossible to predict an earthquake and therefore the court was trying science, ABC News reported.
Luciano Maiani, a physicist and the chair of the High Risks Committee, said that the conviction was a mistake and the scientists are "are professionals who have spoken in good faith and were not driven by personal interests," ABC News reported.
"It is manifestly unfair for scientists to be criminally charged for failing to act on information that the international scientific community would consider inadequate as a basis for issuing a warning," the ABC News reported the letter said.
Aldo Scimia, whose mother was killed in the earthquake, said the State failed its main duty to provide security, ABC News reported.
David Oglesby, an associate professor at the earth sciences faculty of the University of California, Riverside, said he understands the frustration people feel toward events outside their control and the grief they feel over lost loved ones, CNN reported. But "convicting honest scientists of manslaughter does nothing to help this situation, and may well put a chill on exactly the kind of science that could save lives in the future," CNN reported Oglesby said.
The convicted will remain free during the appeal process, CNN reported.