An appeals court has cleared seven experts of manslaughter charges after being accused of failing to adequately warn citizens of the risk before an earthquake struck central Italy in 2009. The verdict had outraged many in the scientific community.

The six scientists and one governmental official were facing six-year jail terms in the wake of a quake that killed 309 people.

Critics argued that the seismologists should not have been held responsible for something that is — for all intents and purposes — still impossible to predict. The convictions rattled the scientific community, which argued that the charges represented a complete misunderstanding of the science behind earthquake probabilities.

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Others argued that the scientists were culpable to some level for not warning citizens strongly enough about the quake risks. Some citizens claimed that the dangers were downplayed, and that reassurances had persuaded many residents to remain in their homes, which contributed to their deaths during the 6.3 magnitude quake.

Specifically, the defendants were accused of giving "inexact, incomplete and contradictory information" about whether small tremors felt by L'Aquila residents in the weeks and months before the 6.3-magnitude quake were grounds for a warning.

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Now, the appears court has cleared all seven of the major charge, arguing that no crime had been committed. According to Italian law, convictions are not enforced until an appeals trial has been held.

Top image: L'Aquila eathquake prefettura/CC

[ AP/dw.de ]