21 Sep 2011

NZ scientists say Italian quake trial unjust

12:10 pm on 21 September 2011

New Zealand scientists have signed a petition in support of Italian scientists on trial for manslaughter over the 2009 earthquake in L'Aquila.

Six Italian scientists and a former government official are accused of failing to warn the public about the 6.3 magnitude quake that hit the medieval city, killing 309 people.

Prosecutors allege the defendants gave a falsely reassuring statement before the quake after studying hundreds of tremors that had shaken the city, the BBC reports.

The defence argues that there is no way to predict major earthquakes even in a seismically active area.

GNS Science seismologist John Ristau says he and a number of his New Zealand colleagues have signed a petition in support of the group standing trial.

Mr Ristau says it seems very unjust that they are being tried for failing to predict the unpredictable.

He says he has never heard of a case like this before, and it is difficult to say what the ramifications of the court's ruling could be for seismologists outside Italy.