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Experts convicted in quake trial

Seven scientists and experts have been sentenced to six years in jail for failing to give adequate warning of Italy's deadly 2009 L'Aquila earthquake.

More than 300 people died in the quake in the centre of the country.

The defendants were all members of a national "Great Risks Commission". In Italy, convictions are not definitive until after an appeals trial, so it is unlikely any of them will face jail immediately.

Scientists worldwide had decried the trial as ridiculous, contending that science has no way to predict quakes.

Among those convicted were some of Italy's most prominent and internationally respected seismologists and geological experts, including Enzo Boschi, former head of the national Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology. "I am dejected, desperate," he said after the verdict. "I thought I would have been acquitted. I still don't understand what I was convicted of."

The trial began in September 2011 in the Apennine town of L'Aquila, whose devastated historic centre is still largely empty. 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 major quake should have constituted grounds for a quake warning.

The 6.3-magnitude quake killed 308 people in and around the medieval town and forced survivors to live in tent camps for months. Many much smaller earth tremors had rattled the area in the months before the quake, causing people to wonder if they should evacuate.

"I consider myself innocent before God and men," said another convicted defendant, Bernardo De Bernardinis, a former official of the national Civil Protection agency.

Prosecutors had sought conviction and four-year sentences during the non-jury trial, which was led by a judge.

Defence lawyer, Filippo Dinacci, said the sentence would have "big repercussions" on public administration since officials would be afraid to "do anything."

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