ROME, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- An Italian judge said science was not "on trial" when he sent seven natural disaster experts to jail for their risk evaluation before a deadly 2009 earthquake.
Judge Marco Billi said Friday his October ruling, sending the scientists to jail for six years each for manslaughter, was based on "assertions made concerning the assessment of risks connected to the seismic activity in the area around L'Aquila," where 309 people died and tens of thousands were left homeless by the 6.3 magnitude quake. Billi said the scientists' cautions had been "completely vague, generic and ineffective," The Guardian reported.
"'Science' is not being put on trial for not having succeeded in predicting the earthquake of April 6, 2009," he wrote. "The task of the accused ... was certainly not to predict the earthquake and indicate the month, day, hour and magnitude, but rather, more realistically, to go ahead ... with the 'prediction and prevention of the risk.'"
Enzo Boschi, a former president of Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology and one of the seven scientists sentenced, told Italy's ANSA news agency he "absolutely" does not feel guilty.
"Does the judge not think that, after having spent years exposing the seismic nature of Italy, I would have suddenly said that there was no risk of earthquakes in L'Aquila? It's all senseless," he said. "What reason would we have had for reassuring people? What would we have gained by it?"
The experts, who were members of the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks, are free pending appeals.